I came across a quotation recently that really "spoke to me", as they say, and caused me to reflect more deeply upon my own feelings for the subject matter addressed.
The quote went like this: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one."
My first reaction was to recognize this as a variation on Shakespeare's, "A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste death but once." But whether intentional or not, I quickly decided, didn't really matter. The message was what counted (in both, actually, but for now let's stick with the one about readers).
As a reader since as far back as I can remember, I could certainly relate to the many "lives" I had embarked upon thanks to the words I found between the pages of a good book or in a gripping short story. I've known people who scoff at reading as mere "vicarious thrills" for those who don't have the spirit or fortitude to get out and do things in the "real world". That may be true, to a certain extent. Reading for pleasure certainly is an escape of sorts … just like watching a movie or TV show, listening to music, walking on a beach, etc. But that hardly means voracious readers don't do anything else. More likely it is one of many activities (for want of a better word) they enjoy. And for those not in the know, the knowledge gained from reading (even leisure reading) can actually enhance other activities.
When my wife and I were young and first married, especially after our daughter was born, we often didn't have the extra money to go out on weekends and do some of the things my co-workers and others we knew often were involved in. Part of it was also a matter of choice inasmuch as we weren't much for the bar scene or parties anyway. Back at work on Monday, some of my co-workers would tell their weekend tales and when they got around to me I usually didn't have a lot to add. Sometimes I suspect some of them might even have felt a bit sorry for what they perceived as my dull existence. What they didn't understand was that Pam and I were perfectly content staying home with our daughter, watching old movies on TV, going to the park, taking "Sunday drives", etc. And, for me, I also had my reading. No, maybe I hadn't made it to so-and-so's big party or gone water-skiing at the beach or any of that. But, in my books, I may have gone to a dozen exotic locales and participated in a hundred exciting adventures.
Thinking back, maybe it was only my imagination that any of my co-workers might have felt sorry for me. Either way, it doesn't matter. What I know for sure is that I eventually came to realize it was I who felt sorry for them.
You see, I feel sorry for anybody who doesn't read.
They'll never know what they're missing.
Readers are a special breed—special people. You find them in all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, and ages. Every decade or so we're told that they are a dying species, that reading is on its way out, being replaced by something new and different. And yet the volume of reading material—including electronic media—increases every year. And with the inclusion of eReaders and eBooks, that volume is exploding at an even greater rate.
Yeah, readers are special—and durable.
I predict they're gonna be around for a long time.
And now that I've also become a writer … well, that makes readers special to me in a whole new way. In return, I promise to do my best to help them enjoy leading some of those "thousand lives" that await them when they open the pages.