Book reading is one of the oldest activities undertaken by the human civilization. It has always been seen as a source of enlightenment for the masses. But, unfortunately the trend has seen a decline in recent years as people, today, are drawn more towards television and the Internet (especially social networking sites/applications). People nowadays don’t mind reading hundreds of Facebook/Twitter updates everyday, but they would start frowning at the sight of a book. A reason why book reading is on a decline is because people perceive book reading as unproductive, they feel they won’t get a well-paid job by reading books which aren’t from their course. Unless the book is about love, fantasies or vampires, it’s rare that it would be accepted by the majority of our population – the youth. But the content of every powerful book isn’t restricted to just that.
Famous writers like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in their works, talk about love, violence, happiness, solitude, religion, war, loss and poverty – themes which are a part of our everyday life. What they have learned and what they have achieved from it can be the yardstick by which one can measure his/her life. Their words can act as inspiration and be the guiding light in one’s life. If you think that reading books is a complete waste of time, then you should think again.
A major factor that molds the life of an average person into that of a writer is the lessons that they’ve learned in their life. The suffering, the ups and downs, the loss of a beloved, all these contribute in shaping a person’s life. Famous English writer D. H. Lawrence’s successful book Sons and Lovers was extremely autobiographical in which he talked about a (his) mother’s love for her sons and how she influenced their lives, largely towards a bitter end. In his case, he suffered a lot as a child, he belonged to a working-class background, witnessed domestic violence between his parents and saw his mother die when he was still young. If we were to substitute someone’s normal life with Lawrence’s sufferings, then chances would be that that person would grow insane, instead of becoming a successful writer like Lawrence by writing about his/her personal miserable experiences.
The point is not that one should start writing about their life’s miseries and become a writer (and in turn start making money), but one should understand the deeper meaning lying beneath a writer’s words. What a writer writes is not just born out of his/her imagination, but it is a result of what he/she has experienced in his/her life, and it could be anything – bitter or sweet – unless it’s enlightening, because life is a mixture of these two elements, life cannot be meaningful without either one’s absence. Reading books is one of the best ways to adapt a vision, a perception through which you can see what’s lying beneath an emotion or a behavior. And that would help you in understanding life better.
While writing, a writer adds his/her perspective in the narration, and it is up to the readers how they perceive it. What’s important is not that one has to perceive a certain thing just like the writer did, but that one should definitely perceive that thing, even if it’s from their personal point of view. Writers never force their point of view on the readers, they just talk about their perception on a certain thing and that perception is open to acceptance or criticism. For instance, the famous Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie wrote that “God, Satan, Paradise and Hell all vanished one day in my fifteenth year, when I quite abruptly lost my faith… and afterwards , to prove my new-found atheism, I bought myself a rather tasteless ham sandwich, and so partook for the first time of the forbidden flesh of the swine. No thunderbolt arrived to strike me down… From that day to this I have thought of myself as a wholly secular person.”
Rushdie’s words, although blasphemous, are his personal thoughts. By writing that he doesn’t believe in God, he isn’t forcing his secular doctrine onto his readers, but is expressing his personal thoughts on religion. Nowhere is he encouraging people to give up religion. What’s important here, is to understand why he chose secularism, what were the reasons behind it. Understanding what a writer means by his words only enhances the reader’s ability to perceive and understand things differently, because more than understanding a writer’s words, it’s important to understand the meaning and the reason behind it.
What made the writer speak such things? What if we start thinking differently like them? These are some introspective questions one should ponder upon.
So, the next time you pick up a book, whether it be a short story, a novel, a play or a poem, your main objective should be to understand the writer’s thoughts, which you might/might not agree with. But, whatever shall be the case, the reading would not only enlighten you, but also help you create an analytical vision towards life. You’ll be able to see beauty behind everything around you and your life will become more meaningful.