Saturday is quote day! Last week, I blogged about what we need to make us happy. For me, one of those things is a great book. Today’s quote was inspired by my day spent curled up with a book avoiding the near-blizzard happening outside:
“A house without books is like a room without windows.” ~Heinrich Man
As part of my five suitcase allowance, I managed to bring seven books and two cookbooks. It was challenging for me to choose only seven: I have been spoiled as my dad has helped me move dozens and dozens of books back and forth between Ottawa and St. Catharines throughout my undergrad. Just another way my parents have supported my reading habit hands-down.
In looking for a quote that adequately summed up my thoughts about books, there were quite a few about reading as ‘exercise for the brain’ and the start of imagination and a breeding ground for new ideas. While all of that is true, you can do a lot of reading these days without ever opening a book. Call me a traditionalist, but there’s something about curling up with Google Reader (my new favourite Google service) and your computer (I’ve spent my fair share of time doing that too) that just can’t match a book. I have yet to try a Kindle (it is not high on my priority list, either), but I’m steadfast in my belief that books are better.
Depending on who you ask, windows are good for different reasons. They add natural light, they let you admire the Great Outdoors, they open your mind to what is beyond the four walls of your world without ever having to brave blizzards and cold temperatures. Books do the same thing – you get to engage with ideas of people you will never meet, think through feelings you might not ever experience, learn about places and time periods in which you are most definitely not living.
I’ve been grateful for the books I did bring, especially as a way to fill a snow day (whether or not it is self-imposed). In the not-quite three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve managed to read three books (The Lost Symbol, A Thousand Splendid Suns and Fugitive Pieces), each of which I have loved more than the last. Both A Thousand Splendid Suns and Fugitive Pieces deserve to make your must-read list. The Lost Symbol is good, don’t get me wrong, but I much prefer the thought provoking aspects of the other two over the page-turning suspense of Dan Brown.
- Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is the history of Afghanistan’s long-standing, ongoing internal and external power struggles and conflicts, and the human lives caught in the middle. He’s been praised as an author who puts a face on his country as the media and governments portray it in a way that best matches the current justification for a continued military presence (I’m not going to get into this here, but suffice it to say that I was raised to finish things I start and firmly believe that once you march into a country – whatever your reason may be – you owe it to the people to make sure its a better place when you leave then when you arrived).
- Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels, came highly recommended by a friend from camp although I had heard mixed reviews. Someone at work mentioned they were reading it and I promptly put myself next in line to read it. It wasn’t until I was about 30 pages in that I began to thoroughly enjoy it, but from that moment, I didn’t put it down until I finished, 270 pages later. It is the life story of a boy whose family is killed during the Holocaust and the ways it is impossible to fully escape history. It is deeply emotional and the author does a fantastic job of weaving together several stories and characters, all of whom work their way into your consciousness.
There is beauty in the sadness of both these books, love stories intertwined with impossible realities of needless hate and violence and implied philosophical questions that are centuries old. They don’t leave you with a fairy tale ending, but the best books don’t end when they ride off into the sunset, but when the curiousity they inspire sparks questions and conversations and the quest to learn more. The reality of it is, we never really have all the answers – and riding off into the sunset tricks us in to thinking we do. When that happens, it is so easy for history to repeat itself – and if there is one lesson from both these books, it is that so many parts of our history cannot be repeated. The human cost is much too high.
Don’t live in a room without windows. Make sure your house has books, but most importantly, that you’re making time to read them.