Oh, I do apologize for the “click-bait” title. Oh course, I did not mean getting rich in the usual sense of the word. Not big piles of money rich, or huge killing on the stock market kind of rich. Not even enormous piles of hoarded, priceless treasure like Bilbo found in Smaug’s cave kind of rich. Although that last kind, being wholly fictional, and referring, of course, to J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic book The Hobbit, is closer to the sort of rich I meant.
No, what I did mean was the sort of “richness” that can permeate your life if you are a lover of books. And how, ever since I first picked up a book, reading has added so much to the quality of life I enjoy. Has, in fact, enriched my life, even if it hasn’t exactly made me any wealthier.
I was thinking about this after a phone call to my mum on Saturday. We chatted about this and that and eventually made our way around to what we were reading, one of our favourite topics of conversation. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that my mum is in her eighties and still lives on her own on the farm down east where I grew up. And you’ll also know that she is a great reader, having inherited that passion from her mum and, thankfully, passed it on to me. (I wrote a post on our shared love of reading last year. You can read it here if you want.)
Anyway… Mum was in fine form on Saturday. Feeling cheerful, as she had just finished her housework, had made a pot of tea and had five new books to read. Five. “Well,” I enthused, “it doesn’t get much better than that!” And then we proceeded to muse on what the devil people did with their time if they didn’t read. Another favourite topic. And what a gaping, big hole there would be in our lives if we didn’t read.
Just these past two weeks, for instance, I’ve been transported to Scotland, Afganistan, and Italy by these wonderful books.
Lively definitely writes what I call value added books. I’ve learned about history and anthropology and, well, life from Penelope Lively. By reading books like Moon Tiger, and Spider Web, and Consequences. In fact it was a quote from Consequences about the impact of books and reading that started me musing on this whole “value of reading” thing a year ago.
How It All Began opens with the mugging of retired school teacher Charlotte Rainsford and follows the effect this random event has on the lives of seven people. As Michiko Kakutani says in her review in The New York Times, Lively looks at “the ways the past molds the present, the role that chance plays in people’s lives; the haphazard might-have-beens that follow an impulsive choice made long ago.” I adore it when a book does this, looks at how, and even why, life turns out the way it does.
This is Penelope Lively and her husband and four of their grandchildren in 1995. Lovely shot, isn’t it?
Lively’s books are so wise. They’ve truly enriched my understanding of life and of human nature. And her reflections about life and old age and “twenty-first century widowhood” in her 2013 article in The Telegraph, make me want to pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and ask her all kinds of advice. Click here to read the article. Really, you should.
Which brings me to this little gem. Thanks to reader Susan T who, following my Barbara Pym post, suggested that I might like E.M. Delafield, I ordered The Diary of a Provincial Lady from our library. And after I picked it up a few days later, I made myself a pot of tea ( I drink entirely too much tea) and curled up on the sofa in the sun room with the book. And I was transported to 1930’s upper class England, drafty old houses, domestic disasters, bank overdrafts, even litters of contraband kittens in the cupboard. I was lost… for hours. Let’s just say that it’s lucky that there were no children or helpless animals that needed to be fed or cared for… and that Hubby is well able to make dinner for both of us. Otherwise there might have been a real life domestic disaster right here on the Rideau.
That’s E.M. Delafield below, looking very Barbara Pym-ish if you ask me.
Yep. Books have enriched my life. They entertain me, they teach me all kinds of stuff I wouldn’t learn anywhere else. They sustain me through times of stress and turmoil. Sometimes if they’re particularly moving, they cause the turmoil, but nevermind. They have given me tons of topics to write about in blog posts, which in turn have engendered lovely, interesting comments from readers. Often with great suggestions for other books to read and then to write about… and on it goes. I can’t imagine a life without books and reading. Why that would be like Smaug without his treasure. Too sad.
I’m so glad that I inherited that reading gene. My inherited wealth. Thanks Mum.
What about you? Has reading made you “richer?”