On Reading and Pondering Deeply

Second Sokkai Gakkai president Josei Toda urged young people to read good books and to ponder things deeply. Even though Toda died in 1958, this advice is relevant today and is great encouragement for everyone. And, in fact, is a way to stay youthful despite your physical age.

What makes a book “good” to begin with? Is it informative? Inspirational? Energizing? Does it make you see things differently? Laugh? Perhaps good books do all of these things. Perhaps something else entirely.

books-158066_640A good book enriches me. It nourishes me in some way. A good books speaks to me, even if it’s a psychological thriller with a love story at its center.

A good book is not only worth reading, it is worth rereading. You come to it again to unlock new lessons, discover new images, uncover subtle nuances. It may touch you differently because of who you are this year, or what happened to you last season. Or because you’re finally ready to deal with that twenty-year old trauma. But sometimes you just want to check in on your favorite characters and reminisce about old times.

As for pondering deeply, many  refuse ponder at all, much less deeply. Social media platforms are filled with incoherent ramblings from knee-jerk reactions to hearsay. Some who claim to have researched a hot-button issue have limited their reading to the title of click-bait, which is designed to be sensational rather than informative.

Pondering is slow. Much slower than the skim-swipe-share culture of today. It requires one to engage with one’s brain and with a variety of ideas.

Pondering is dialogue, not declaration.

It is inquiry rather than assumption.

It is research and reflection, not regurgitation.

I wonder if in 2015 we can slow down, read good books and ponder things deeply. Let’s engage each other in conversations (on social media and in real life) grounded in wisdom, thoughtfulness, and respect for diverse views.

What are your must-reads?

The ladies of Whiskey, Wine and Moonshine have books on the brain. We may share some of our recent convos on an upcoming podcast. In the meantime, I want to know your thoughts about books. For all questions, you can choose more than one.

  • Who is your favorite author?
  • What’s your favorite children’s book?
  • What’s your favorite book? What makes it special?
  • What book did you read that you wish you’d encountered earlier in life? How did you come to read it?
  • What book would you recommend to someone? What makes it worthy?
  • What notable book did you try reading, but abandoned?
  • What book is on your “to read” list?
  • Complete the following sentence: {Insert name of book} should be required reading for {insert individual or group} because (insert reason}.

It’s probably not fair of me to ask these questions without sharing some of the answers, and I may reveal my thoughts in a future post.  For now I want to hear from you! The floor is yours…

Bibliophiles, bookstores and endings

My mom was a school librarian for 30 years. She retired before 60 as she began working in her early 20s and never stopped. When she told me she was calling it quits, I teased her all the time. “You’re not ready to retire,” I always said. I couldn’t see this smart, vibrant woman no longer getting up and going to work every day.  My picture of retirement was limited to occasional volunteering and philanthropic work. Traveling. All great things she’d done in the past, but things I couldn’t picture her doing in lieu of being in a school library.

By her late 50s she insisted kids had changed so much and librarian duties had evolved into things outside her sphere of interest – she loved books –  it simply was no longer her dream job.

As it turns out, she had a plan. A brand new shopping center was going up nearby, and it promised a Barnes & Noble in the line up of big box stores. Every time we drove past the site, she pointed and smiled, sharing her post-retirement dream to work at the bookseller and enjoy the discounts.

She retired and became a part-time media specialist (I knew it!), filling in for those who needed to be out on leave or what have you. But she never did make it behind the counter of the Barnes & Noble. One Memorial Day weekend, she had a heart attack. Less than 24 hours later, she died. That was 2003, the same year that long-awaited store finally opened. It always saddens me to know she missed it.

It’s 2013. That Barnes & Noble recently went the way of many large box booksellers these days – kaput. In fact, July marked the end of its lease, and a wig shop is said to be on the way to take its place.

I know some feel as if the big sellers are  getting their just rewards, and if people  bought enough books from the brick and mortar stores, they’d still be around anyway. But I don’t have the nostalgia for the community bookseller. We didn’t have one aside from the used book shop in the plaza across from the park. And that plaza has been decrepit for nearly 20 years now.

The Barnes & Noble was our community space. You could scarcely go in it and not see someone you knew. Or if you were going there to work or meet a friend, you had to pray for a space to sit since everyone else was there, too. Lots of wheeling and dealing, coffee sipping, book writing, and studying for exams, story time for children, book signings, and even dates took place in that store.  And yes, people bought books, too. And in that mix, nurturing her love of books while helping other people feed theirs? That’s where momma wanted to be.

But now she and it are both gone.

B&N Closed