Pleasures of Reading
Reading books is one of the charms of a cultured life. The man who does not read books is imprisoned in his immediate world. But the moment he takes up a book he enters a different world. If it is a good book, he is immediately put in touch with one of the best talkers in the world. The talker takes him to a different country or a different age or unburdens to him some of his personal regrets or discusses with him some special line or aspect of life the reader does not know. W. Basil Worsfold says, through literature we learn wisdom from Aristotle, geometry from. Euclid. law from Justinian and morality , from Christ and St. Paul. Homer has given us Aegean of sunlit islands and purple seas, Dante, a dark and mysterious inferno, Milton, a garden of Eden, and Shakespeare, an Elizabethan England.
Only a scientist will be interested in chemistry or botany, but everyone likes to read and enjoy a poem, novel, a short story or an essay. In other words, creative literature attracts all. It nourishes youth, entertains old age, and provides solace in adversity. Literature is a form of artistic creation and, as such, it is both a criticism and idealization of life. It is, to quote Hudson, an expression of life through the medium of language It prepares us to face life cheerfully. It widens our experiences of life by revealing those aspects, which are commonly hidden from our view. According to Augustine Birrel, literature exists to please — to lighten the burden of men’s lives, to make them, for a short while, forget their sorrows and their silenced hearts, their disappointed hopes, their grim future.
Great works in literature are noted for their imagination and understanding of human nature. They affect our innermost feelings and emotions. Through his great tragedies, Shakespeare impresses on us the unity of the human soul and its emotions behind the diversity of our ideas and customs. We are one in emotional life whether we have a white face like Hamlet, or a black one like Othello’s. When he drew Hamlet’s, he pictured the uncertainties and indecision which visit us, though in different circumstances. His Macbeth mirrors our dishonest ambitions. Through these great tragedies, Shakespeare reminds us that, although evil might succeed, its triumph is short-lived. Great poems and novels also give us an insight into life.
We should also read famous autobiographies, biographies and books dealings with history and travels. Autobiographies arid-biographies help us to understand the difficulties and sufferings great men have had to face in their lives. We are reminded of Gandhiji’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth and that of Nehru’s. Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson also comes to our mind. Books dealing with travels assist us greatly in knowing the lives of the people living in various countries. History books also educate us.
According to Dr. C.E.M. Joad, the famous English philosopher, if a books excites thought, if it stimulates our aesthetic sense, if it helps to understand our fellow creatures, if it increases our vitality and indirectly influences our personal conduct — if it accomplishes any of these things, it has value. This definition makes us think of the undesirability of reading books that promote hatred or cater to vulgarity.
If we wish to enjoy reading, we should read the books we like. Further, it is necessary for us to read them with imagination and sympathy.