Reading makes you happy | Sunday Observer

Reading makes you happy

Whoever thought, spending some time with a story can encourage positive thinking and fortify friendships? Raymond Mar, Associate Professor at York University in Toronto says, “Great reads have great potential to spark imagination and absorb a person in another world.”

Unknown to most of us, short stories and novels can provide life-changing perspectives. Getting personally involved in the fictional characters will strengthen your ability to understand the feelings of others quite well. When we read a novel we identify ourselves with certain characters. Then we experience a kind of real-life relationship that can enhance our sense of inclusion.

Most novels have a happy ending that will definitely lift our spirits. Sometimes, novels inspire positive feelings in subtle ways. The description of village scenes, forests and visits to unknown places brighten our day giving us a sense of satisfaction.

In most novels, the protagonist overcomes many obstacles courageously. Such events motivate readers to meet their own goals. However, reading should be done as a passion. Some people have the habit of flying from one book to another without reading any of them meaningfully. This is a squeamish caprice of a literary epicure. You have to read systematically, closely and thoughtfully, analyzing everything as you go along. It is only by this mode that your information will be extensive, accurate and useful.

The pleasure of reading without discrimination can be dangerous. Reading pulp novels will only add to your misery. It is for this reason that you have to select carefully what you are going to read. If you are unable to decide what to read, you will have to seek advice from a teacher or someone who knows something about books. I see many youngsters reading books that do not provide them with any knowledge or pleasure.

According to Coleridge, there are four kinds of readers. The first is like the hour-glass. Their reading is like the sand that runs in and out leaving nothing behind. The second is like the sponge. They imbibe everything they read, but remain the same. The third is like a jelly-bag, allowing all that is pure to pass away, and retaining the refuse and the dregs.

The fourth is like the slaves in the diamond mines of Golconda. They cast aside all that is worthless and retain only the pure gems. So, you have to read books like the slaves in the diamond mines!

It is only through reading you will be able to lay the foundation for knowledge. I have never heard of a man or woman who acquired knowledge without reading books. Through reading we learn general principles which can be tested in real life. What can be learnt from a hundred people can be gathered from a single paragraph of a well-written book. This is nothing but concentrated wisdom.

A competent author knows how to convey lofty ideas using the minimum number of words. If you attend a lecture, the speaker will waste half the time relating incidents which may have a remote relevance to the subject at hand. However, a competent author does not have the time or space to bore the reader with irrelevant material. Therefore, he has to come to the point without wasting words.

Some students have the habit of asking their teachers what they should read. One day, I asked my English lecturer – A.M.G. Sirimanne – what I should read to improve my writing skills. At once he said, “You should read books written by James Thurber”. As a young man, Thurber worked at the American Embassy in Paris from 1918 to 1920, and turned to journalism.

Reading Thurber’s “Credos and Curios” and “The Thurber Carnival” made me realize he was an author who could depict in simple sentences the pathetic, yet humorous stupidity of the people of his day and age. However,Thurber’s art was easy to recognize, but hard to define. He created a world in which mournfully sagacious hounds loom over frightened little men who are trying desperately to master life’s problems. ‘Thurberites’ (Thurber fans) – and there are many of them – hardly need reminding that they should read at least “The Thurber Carnival.”

When it comes to reading, we cannot forget Francis Bacon’s memorable words: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man; and, therefore, if a man writes little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.”

Most of us spend time for reading, conversation and contemplation. Reading enriches memory, conversation polishes wit and contemplation improves judgment. Of them, reading is the most important activity, as it furnishes both the others. A Chinese writer, Chang Ch’ao says, “Reading books in one’s youth is like looking at the moon through a crevice; reading books in middle age is like looking at the moon in one’s courtyard; and reading books in old age is like looking at the moon on an open terrace. This is because the depth of the benefits of reading varies in proportion to the depth of one’s own experience.”

I started off by saying “Reading makes you happy”. One might ask why we should try to be happy. Psychologist Martin Seligman noticed that happy people tend to get on well with others and enjoy their company. They lead what he called, “the pleasant life,” while others lead “the good life” and “the meaningful life.” The pleasant life appears to bring happiness. Reading is the surest and cheapest way to derive happiness in life.


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