Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Exercise Your Mind

I'm a bibliophile. I've loved to read pretty much since I've been able to pick up a book. Able to read for myself since age four, I've always had a book in progress ever since. As a kid, I brought a book to the dinner table and it didn't matter what it was. I can remember going through our family's set of encyclopedias, volume by volume, at around age ten.

As an adult, I read about 75 percent non-fiction and 25 percent fiction. What I'm interesting in reading goes in spells -- I'll read lots of one type of book for months, then I'll get a taste for something else and the first type will go on the backburner until my interest is piqued for that type of book again. In non-fiction, just one or two books about a particular topic isn't enough -- I have to read everything I can get my hands on about it. For example, I own over 25 biographies of Harry Truman. The way I see it, every author takes a slightly different slant on the topic and includes some information another author missed.

As a libertine bibliophile, I'm in good company, as the most well-known libertine of all time, Casanova, was even a librarian in his last years.

I know there are many people who don't like to read; that they consider reading to be a chore or even work. This baffles me, as reading is as easy as breathing to me and it has provided hours of enjoyment over the years. It's stimulated my imagination and allowed me to "travel" to different times and places I could never go to in real life. I also credit my avid reading with my ability to write -- after so many books, writing simply rubbed off on me by osmosis.

I even know people who actively scorn reading. I once worked with a young man who bragged he'd not read a book since leaving school. I looked at him and said I'd never brag about being a dumbass in public like that.

So, I was not surprised when I recently read that one in four Americans had read no books at all last year. And even among those who had read something last year, the typical person claimed to have read four books — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read at all, the usual number read was only seven. A measly amount, compared to the dozens of books I read each year.

It makes me wonder what these people do to exercise their minds -- if they do at all. If they don't, it explains a lot of things wrong with this country.

At a time when everyone is jumping on the bandwagon about physical fitness, few are alarmed about the erosion of mental fitness in our society. Though many harp on the dangers of being physically unfit, I'm guessing a nation of physically fit intellectual lightweights isn't going to do the country a whole lot of good, either.

Pick up a book and read something today.

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