I love books.
While that is not the most eloquent statement about reading, the three word sentence communicates my desire to spend time with the writings of another.
In contrast to my simple declaration, there are are a number of very eloquent statements about the importance of books. On my e-mail correspondence, I have a quote from the Victorian Scottish born essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
“All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been; it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.”
I enjoy sharing that quote and two other facts about Thomas Carlyle:
1. He invented the word Eleutheromania: A mania or frantic zeal for freedom. If I were to use this word in a sentence, I would write, “At the conclusion of every school year, I suffer a serious case of Eleutheromania.”
2. He and his wife were very unhappy. They were so unhappy that the author Samuel Butler said of their marriage: “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four.”
I also have a favorite funny quote about reading books. This quote is by the brilliant comedian Groucho Marx (1890-1977) and is spelled out in big gold letters on one of my book bags:
”Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
I get a number of people who look at my bag from a distance, I see their lips move as they read the joke aloud…and then I see them smile when they understand. Groucho’s humor is timeless.
By far the most eloquent comment I have ever read about reading books, however, comes from Carl Sagan (1934-1996). Sagan was was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author who relentless promoted science. His brilliant TV series in the 1980s Cosmos received critical acclaim and gave over a reported 500 million viewers a new perspective on the size and scope of the universe and the relative size of planet Earth in comparison. The 11th episode was titled “The Persistence of Memory” and in this episode Sagan stated the following:
“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
A book reaches across the millennia. An author is in your head speaking to you. Books bind people together.
Astonishing indeed, and reason enough to say, “I love books.”