I’ve not been writing reviews recently for a number of reasons, but I keep reading. We’re in Week 20 of the year and I’ve read 19 books. I hope to finish my 20th this week to keep on schedule. But we don’t read books to review them, or to meet a quota, but to learn, to grow, and to deepen our knowledge.
Peggy Noonan (whose book on John Paul II I’m currently reading) spoke at Catholic University’s commencement last week. She puts it this way:
Reading books forces you to imagine, question, ponder, reflect, connect one historical moment with another. Reading books provides a deeper understanding of political figures and events, of the world — of life itself.
Watching a movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis shows you a drama. Reading histories of it presents you with a dilemma. The book forces you to imagine the color, sound, tone and tension, the logic of events: It makes your brain do work.
But, oddly, it’s work the brain wants to do.
A movie or documentary is received passively: You sit back, see and hear. Books demand more and reward more. When you read them your knowledge base deepens and expands. In time that deepening comes to inform your own work, sometimes in ways of which you’re not fully conscious.
Not to put too fine a point, but your brain gets bigger, stronger. You become smarter and deeper. That happens with books.
“It’s work the brain wants to do.” Put down your iPhone, your iPad, and your remote control and grab a book. You’ll be better off for it.