Saturday, February 12, 2022

Books, Reading, and Turning 65 — Part 2

" Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one
at the end of a long day makes the day happier. "

I thought it would be a simple post, but the more I worked on it, the longer it got. Too long for a single blog post, it's now split into two. You are about to read Part 2, and if you missed Part 1, you'll find it HERE.

At various stages of my life, I sort my books. It's never an easy undertaking. The decision of what to keep, what to give away usually comes with a lot of back and forth. Then I read Marie Kondo who suggested bidding farewell to whatever you want to give away 'in a way that respects what it has meant to (you or) someone in your family'. I found that advice helpful. To give away a book I no longer need does not negate its value. I'm not throwing it out—it just means I'm ready to pass it on. To make way for something new. It helps me to imagine people eagerly waiting for books I will drop off at the thrift store. They will become the caretaker of those good books. I know how I love being on the receiving end of someone else's clearing out. 

I mentioned yesterday that I've been giving thought to my 'why' for books and reading at this stage. In yesterday's POST, I shared three of seven points; today I share the last four. I hope you enjoy. 

* * *

Four. I read for courage

" Don't wish me happiness
I don't expect to be happy all the time . . .
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all. "

Oh yes, I need courage. Courage to carry on with one's work when it feels like the world is falling apart. Courage to keep searching for the beauty in art and music, books and nature. Courage to stay gentle in the midst of hatred and brokenness. Even courage to get out of bed some dreary mornings. I'm glad that I can gather courage from the pages of a book. Sometimes it's in the Book of Psalms or a volume of poetry; other times it's in a novel where the protagonist demonstrates the plucky courage I find myself needing.
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
I love this little conversation found in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It reminds me that each era in history has had to face its own deep troubles. Like Frodo, I wish the horrid stuff wouldn't happen in my lifetime. But it happens no matter what I wish. I'm glad Tolkien wrote that simple conversation—it grounds me every time I read it. I'm reminded to keep my heart centered on what's important, no matter what's going on around me.
* * *

Five. I read to fill in the gaps

" What I always liked about Socrates
was his insistence on questioning things for
the sake of reaching some sort of clarity—even
if it is only clarity about the gaps in our knowledge. "

These days I read to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the world around me. I've been reading books on historical events, some that have happened in my own lifetime, such as the Vietnam War, when I was too young to understand. It's exhilarating to come across information where I can say to myself, 'So that's what that was all about, now that makes sense'. There's a certain satisfaction in adding another piece of life's puzzle into place.

I've been reading books I missed while growing up, wonderful books like The Yearling and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I love to read biographies and memoirs by interesting women, such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Amy Tan, and Sarah Clarkson. And I'm reading more widely and deeply the works by or about well known (or not so well known to me) people who have excelled in their various fields, dipping into the lengthy lists of Nobel Prize winners and the many literary award winners like the Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize, and General Governor's literary awards. All to widen my understanding of what's been going on in the world around me when I was too busy living my own life.

* * *

Six. I read to become a better writer

" Read. Everything you can get your hands on.
Read until words become your friends.
Then when you need to find one, they will jump into
your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them.
And you can select whichever you like, just like a
captain choosing a stickball team. "

Read, read, read is the chief advice authors give to writers, and it's advice I cheerfully embrace. No matter what I read these days, I keep a pencil handy as I'm invariably making notes in the margins, underlining and starring passages. Although I enjoy a story for its own sake, now I take note of how an author's account puts me in touch with my own similar memories, emotions, and observances of life. And when she says it in a way that makes me breathless at its beauty, my heart yearns to also write that way.

I love how reading triggers fresh ideas about what to write. Austin Kleon, author of books like Steal Like An ArtistKeep GoingShare Your Work, confesses regularly to his readers that many of his creative ideas comes from his voracious reading. Creativity begets creativity. We need the creativity of others to trigger our own new thoughts and ideas. Books lend themselves to that end beautifully.

In my previous post, I made the comment that I write to pay it forward because I owe so much to authors and their books that have shed light into my own dark places. And since I began working on this post, I am once again reminded—rather clearly—that it's my turn to share what I've learned over the years, providing light to new generations coming up behind. That's the job of writers. To pay it forward. So many of life's little secrets, wisdom, and advice came through authors setting their gleanings down in books. I do feel the weight of that as I write today.

* * *

Seven. I read to meet new heroes

" I think a hero is really any person intent on
making this a better world for all people."

I don't think we ever get too old for heroes. When we were children, we needed heroes with capes to emulate. When we were young women with families and careers, we needed role models to show us how to develop life skills. And now as I approach this senior phase, I still need heroes. Those people who show us what aging with grace looks like.

They are the travelers who have gone ahead and left signposts for living a beautiful life. People like Maya Angelou, Whistler's Mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, and Mother Teresa, to name a handful. I also think of Penelope Lively, a British author who wrote a memoir of her journey towards her ninth decade. Called Ammonites & Leaping Fish, A Life in Time, she said it was her 'view from old age'.

* * * 

A world without books hardly bears thinking about. It's such an amazing gift to be able to read. Without the written word, where would we be? Where would we be? Author Elizabeth von Arnim once said, 'What a blessing it is to love books". I couldn't agree more, and I am glad they will accompany me into my old age.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

1. Top photo by Alina Vilch from Pexels
2. Photo by Hannelies from Pixabay
3. Photo by Congerdesign from Pixabay
4. Photo by Voltamax from Pixabay
5. Photo from Pixabay, photographer unknown


  1. You've been able to put into words things I believe to be true. I know people that never read a book...I can NOT imagine. I look forward to reading and read a little here and there throughout the day. I feel so encouraged at times but other times it's an escape from worries and the bad news in the world. I should make a list of important books I never read. Enjoy your weekend and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. It's hard to imagine folks not reading but each to their own. :) I like what you said about reading for encouragement and escapism from the worries of this current time. We need both for sure. Thank you, Diane, for sharing.

  2. Dear Brenda,
    I've enjoyed reading these two posts together on this Saturday morning, a mug of tea beside me, and with sunshine peeking over the tops of the trees. Like you, I cannot imagine life without books. They enrich my life immeasurably. I love the way you have analyzed and shared the reasons that you read. I find myself nodding along. These are two posts that I will be returning to. Thank you!

    1. Lorrie, I'm so glad we share the love of books and reading. Glad also that you enjoyed the posts. xo

  3. Seven great reasons to read and keep on reading! Your post has me thinking about my grade school teachers, especially Mrs. Erickson in grade 1. I have such a vivid memory of sitting in a small reading group with her, when suddenly the characters on the page matched the sounds that she was making as she read to us. That moment was sheer joy to me, and the moment the world began opening up to me. I'm so grateful to our parents and my teachers for instilling in me a love of words and reading. To (mis)quote a great mind, I read, therefore I am.
    --Rene Descartes

    1. Kathy, oh my, what a lovely memory from first grade - that is so special! Like you, I'm so grateful for our parents and teachers who instilled in us the love of reading. Loved the mis-quote!

  4. This is definitely a post that i need to read again, in tandem with part 1. Your views are so refreshing, so similar to many of mine. I think one of my reasons g=for reading is to be able to 'give out', but that's mainly because I was a teacher and facts and stories could be interwoven with lessons!
    Thank you for these thoughtful posts Brenda.

    1. Barbara, I appreciate your kind comments. Now I must add the reason you shared to my own list. Being able to give out. As you mentioned it, I realized that is something I have done myself. As a teacher, you certainly would have needed all sorts of facts and examples to share with your students. I wasn't a school teacher but I taught Sunday School and Bible studies over the years. Like you, I was ever on the lookout for info to 'give out'. Thanks so much for your note! xo

  5. This is a lovely post that resonates with me. Books are dear to me too, and guess what my profession is; librarian. Plus I am a writer. That is a good point, to read to find heroes.

    1. Terra, thanks so much for your note. As a book lover, you must be in your element being a librarian. Lovely!

  6. This (these two posts) was such an enjoyable and inspiring read, Brenda! Much to think about as I sit here in my home library surrounded by books. I think I'll pick up a new one today . . .

  7. Good morning, Brenda. Once again I am late to the party. However, I knew this post(both of them) was going to be extraordinary and I was not wrong. I loved absolutely every word. On my 'to do list' this winter was to sort through my books and that is a task I have not begun. You have given me courage and inspiration to begin. I am keeping this post to re-read and often. It is full of wise words. Thank you, my friend.

  8. Oh, so dearly worth the wait!<3 thank-you. I will revisit these two posts to be refreshed. your words on courage literally moved me to tears...the good kind!...and this! 'I know how I love being on the receiving end of someone else's clearing out.' Let the clearing begin and the treasure hunt continue! No 'treasures' on Friday, but that's okay. Makes finding a treasure so much sweeter when I do! God bless you as you shine the kind of beauty and wisdom to others that only time refines! Happy 65th Birthday to you.

  9. I especially like the idea of "filling in the gaps." But every gap that I begin to fill widens and becomes a yawning chasm that shows me how much I am still missing!

    Kondo's advice is good, about passing on books we don't need... If it's not something that deserves to be thrown in the trash, I have to imagine someone finding the book and delighting in it.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo