The inner rewards of reading

The fact that these days I have almost completely stopped buying books has nothing to do with my love of reading. It is just that since many years ago the need for more and more space for bookshelves to accommodate the books that I kept buying became a bigger and bigger challenge. It also didn’t make much economic sense for me to pay a lot of money to buy books that I read but once (or didn’t even read, because being in possession of the book generates the feeling of complacency that I can read it later) and then shelve.

So in recent years I have turned to the public libraries. Not only do we have a good computerized library system that enables us to make a reservation for any book in the online catalogue and pick it up in any library of our choice, borrowing books from the library also has the advantage of forcing me to finish reading the book within a short timeframe – I might not even be able to renew it if someone else has made a reservation.

There is recently an article from the BBC news magazine in which the writer laments the slashing of many libraries in the UK. In defence of the libraries, she said: “In our culture the library stands as tall and as significant as a parish church or the finest cathedral. It goes back to the times when ideas first began to circulate in the known world. I worry where wisdom will come from.”

It seems that here in Hong Kong we don’t need to have such a worry as yet. Our problem lies in many people not having the love of reading. On the joy of reading, the writer of the article says it well: “It is the inner rewards of reading a book in a private and concentrated way that lead you into realms of your own imagination and thought that no other process offers. Something happens between the words and the brain that is unique to the moment and to your own sensibilities.” It’s the kind of joy that reading gossip magazines, which is what many Hong Kong people do, can never offer.

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