Farnham Street recently shared a compendium of Harold’s advice on Why to Read that I loved! Of course, you don’t need much of a push if you’re a life-long reader. So, I bought the book and will be reading it right after I finish my current stack.
If you’ve ever wondered why should you read, the following are some insights from one of the most famous scholars of our time.
The most healing of pleasures
“Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you, because it is, at least in my experience, the most healing of pleasures. It returns you to otherness, whether in yourself or in friends, or in those who may become friends. Imaginative literature is otherness, and as such alleviates loneliness. We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life.”
“We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are. Yet the strongest, most authentic motive for deep reading of the now much-abused traditional canon is the search for a difficult pleasure.
. . . I urge you to find what truly comes near to you, that can be used for weighing and considering. Read deeply, not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads.”
How to read Shakespeare
“Reading Shakespeare’s plays, you learn to meditate upon what is left out. That is one of the many advantages that a reader has over a theatergoer in regard to Shakespeare. Ideally, one should read a Shakespeare play, watch a good performance of it, and then read it again. Shakespeare himself, directing his play at the Globe, must have experienced discomfort at how much a performance had to neglect, though we have no evidence of this. However instructed by Shakespeare, it is difficult to imagine the actor Richard Burbage catching and conveying all of Hamlet’s ironies, or the clown Will Kemp encompassing the full range of Falstaff’s wit in the Henry IV plays.”
Note that Harold is referring to reading literary books, not your typical non-fiction (or pop-fiction) book. Why? Because literature will enrich your mind in a way that your news and social media feeds (or even those self-help and business books) won’t. Ever. It’s a powerful way to develop your mind.
If you haven’t given reading a classic a thought, this might be a great time to do it. The best part is that most of these books are available for free! Just search for literature classics in the public domain, and you should be set for the rest of your days.
Let me know it goes.