“ ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,’ said
Jojen. ‘The man who never reads lives only one.’” ~George
R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
My bedside table has seen better days. At one time, when it resided in
my grandmother’s house, the brass pulls and rich, dark mahogany
shined from a weekly polish with lemon scented Pledge. Nowadays, it’s
getting a little long in the tooth. The mahogany has a few white rings
from the careless placement of water cups, and the brass pulls have a
dingy patina. Luckily, these tell-tale marks of time are barely visible
around the pile of books. The lower level of the bedside table is now
my reference section where I keep all my orthopedic texts and monthly
journals. You would think I would keep them at the office, but I always
bring them home to review before a case or to brush up on a particular
topic. On the top of the bedside table, encircling the single lamp are
multiple piles of books that are in the process of being read. I usually
have about 4-5 books I am actively reading. They’re of varying genres:
fiction, nonfiction, thought provoking, or just plain page turners. Some
books stay on the top of the pile while others sift down to the bottom,
residing in that paperback purgatory until they get exiled to a cabinet
somewhere. Now, I do have a rule that if a book sits on my bedside table
for three months, and I put a good faith effort in reading it but never
finish, I will claim that as a complete read. (Very funny math, I know).
So why is a bone jockey like me writing a blog on reading when I could
be telling you how to keep your core strong or joints limber? Well, for
one thing I’d be a pretty boring guy if all I did was read orthopedics
and not explore other literature. And on top of that, reading is to the
mind what exercise is to the body. It provides countless benefits, including:
Stimulating the mind: The brain operates very much like a muscle; you have to exercise it to
keep it healthy and strong.
Acquiring knowledge: Everything you read fills your brain with more information that can help
you tackle challenges.
Expanding vocabulary: The more you read, the more words you are exposed to. These will inevitably
make their way into your everyday vocabulary.
Sharpening writing skills: This goes hand in hand with improving your vocabulary. Also, reading
widely exposes you to different writing styles that you may integrate
into your own.
Honing critical and analytical thinking: From finishing a project for work to navigating difficult relationships,
these require critical thinking skills gained by reading.
Improving memory: Every memory created by reading books, remembering characters, and following
subplots and timelines forges new synapses in the brain which assist in
short term memory recall.
Boosting concentration: In our new internet crazed world where multi-tasking via phone, text,
email, snap chat, etc., is a way of life, the ability to concentrate and
focus on one issue for any period of time is hampered. We are constantly
distracted, and that can lower productivity. Reading for just 15-20 minutes
a day can improve focus and concentration.
Reduces stress: No matter how much stress you are going through in your daily life, reading
before you go to bed allows you to reset by turning off the daily machinations
of the world. A chapter in a nice book can be just what you need to detach
yourself from the present.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least give you a few books I have
been reading the past six months. These are in no particular order, and
I doubt my comments are really helpful. What I usually do is read the
first page of the book, and if it seems interesting, get it.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. A boy in a dystopian United States in 2045 embarks on
an amazing internet quest. A great page turner, especially if you were
raised in the 80s. One of the classic books that were much better than
Gods of Howl Mountain, by Taylor Brown. Local author. Excellent book revolving around the seedy
underbelly of bootleggin’ and the mountain folks it supported
The River of Kings, also by Taylor Brown. Two men on a kayak trip memorializing their father
with a subplot of local history between the French, Spanish and local
Indians in the 1500’s.
Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. A Russian nobleman is placed under house arrest in an
upscale Moscow hotel.
Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, by Yuval Noah Hurari. Fascinating book on the rise of Homo Sapiens in
a readable format.
The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. A naturalist immersion into the alien world of the
octopus’ consciousness. One of those books that makes you think twice.
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. The personal memoir of a boy growing up in generational
poverty and graduating from Yale Law School.
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. Wow! One of my favorites. A raw, gritty, great American novel.
Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. A serial killer on the loose during the Chicago World
Fair. Great historical fiction.
All the Light We cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. The backdrop is WWII. A blind French girl and German
boy whose paths collide in German occupied France. Stunning.
That’s a good start. I know you can get online and order these on
Amazon, but it’s a lot more fun and supports local business to wander
through GJ Ford or Books a Million. I’m not a digital reader. I
like to touch pages and dog ear passages I want to reread.
I hope you can find a good book, and a quiet place.