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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reading is a Humbling Experience

I’ve always been a reader.
The very first book I’ve read (I might have been a fourth or fifth grader) was a kid’s version of Henry Ford’s biography. Lots of black and white photos of weird-looking cars, and no mention of union-busting or Mr. Ford’s infatuation with the Nazis and rabid anti-Semitism.
I then discovered the Hardy Boys, and I must have spent a good chunk of my allowance on these books, for I seem to remember entire bookshelves filled with hard-bound Hardy Boys books. Where they are now I have no idea.

A happy place

Then I got on to Mark Twain, then to the more “serious” authors—Victor Hugo, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and many others.
My library cards have always been filled with library stamps. It got so that librarians in the schools I attended (from high school to college) would let me search  for myself the books I wanted to borrow—they got tired of searching for books that I wanted, which was often located in the dustiest corners of the library.
I can still remember the delicious anticipation of opening a new book, that shiver of excitement that, as I subsequently discovered later, is almost as good as the first time you successfully unhooked a girl’s bra using just one hand.

As I look back, reading seemed to me like I had discovered a whole new world.
And you know what? I did.

I’ve never been happier as when starting a good book.  I’m lucky, I guess, that I can still feel this way.
Now, as I read a few science books by Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Bill Bryson, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Michio Kaku, and others, mixed with the excitement is the knowledge that books also make me realize how little I know about the world.

The more you read, the more you realize that you know only a molecule in the vast galaxy of knowledge.

Reading truly makes us humble.

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