I’ve been a fan of books since the age of 5, when my father introduced me to science fiction. They’ve been my companions through thick and thin, always there when I need a good friend to carry me away into some fabulous journey. I credit books with at least a portion of my intelligence and certainly much of my vocabulary. I came to the US at the age of 10 but I already had a far greater vocabulary and understanding of English than many native English speakers I met, and mostly through the books I read.
Books are still a way for me to learn about the world around me, acquire new skills and occasionally escape. My tastes vary from science fiction and horror to economics and history and I’ll occasionally pick up random books at garage sales just because they look neat. However, in the past few years I’ve found my time to read shrinking at a rather alarming rate. Whether it was work, walking the dog, friends or other obligations, it seemed like I had no time to curl up with a good book. I had spare time but it came in small chunks; five minutes here, ten minutes there and never at home where all my books were. I tried a few solutions such as carrying a book with me but that got old really quick.
I thought about eReaders like the Kindle but that was the same as carrying a book with me with a greater likelihood of my breaking or losing something expensive. I almost gave up on this wonderful hobby when someone mentioned the Kindle iPhone app to me. I was a little skeptical, but I tried anyways and became a convert overnight.
So here I am, about to give you a bit of homework for this weekend. If you have a smart phone, be it iPhone or Android based (does Windows 7 have a reader app of some kind?) go and download the eReader app of your choice. I’m a big fan of the Kindle app but feel free to try something else too. Don’t spend a lot of money on books, just download a few free ones at first. Yes, you heard me, FREE. That’s right, eReaders are full of free apps. Just about any classic you can think of, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is available for free. Download a few and start reading.
Read it at the office when you’re taking your lunch break. Read it at the gym when you’re on the treadmill. Read it at home before you go to bed and yes, read it in the bathroom (just don’t tell anyone about that). These books will form the backbone for an education that in previous generations would have cost a fortune to obtain. The nobility of old used to brag about their libraries in which dozens of books could be found. You could be carrying hundreds of classics on your phone for free by tomorrow.
Download them, read them, think about them. Consider the differences in generations that are evident in Stoker’s description of vampires (no, they don’t sparkle). Read Machiavelli’s The Prince and ponder the similarities between his Italy and our political system. Browse through Plato’s republic and see how the world of Greece was very similar to our own. These books will open your mind and give you a whole new outlook on life.
If you have no clue where to start, try these:
Not all of these are free, but there are enough free ones to keep you occupied for years!
And remember, while you’re reading, don’t just passively take in the words, actively think about what the author is imparting to you. Visualize the scenes in a fiction book, listen to the characters, picture the situation described in a nonfiction book and try to empathize with the characters. If the only thing you ever get from this site is a love of books then I will consider my job well done.
P.S. My own recommendations for your first five books:
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula
- H.G. Well’s The Time Machine
- Dante’s Divine Comedy
- Thomas Paine’s Common Sense
- Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations