Go on, read dangerously| Brighten Youth Education Centre 12 Sep 2017
There are periods in our lives when we just don't feel like thinking. Maybe we're working long hours and doing a lot of commuting. Maybe we have a new baby and are getting very little sleep. Maybe we're in the middle of a heavy period of exams and don't feel as though there is any extra room in our head for ideas beyond those we have to know.
At such moments, we certainly don't feel the need for classic literature, yet this is the time when we probably need it most.
This is the premise behind Andy Miller's The Year of Reading Dangerously (2014).
Miller had always loved books. However, he also had a full-time job, a long commute and a small son to bring up, so he didn't have a lot of free time and wasn't getting much sleep.
He realized that reading, something he adored, had disappeared from his life. Sure, he read stuff on the internet, or free newspapers on the train, but books were nowhere to be found.
However, his house seemed to be full of them, piles of classic titles and recommended works he had purchased over the years but had never read. He then understood that he had been shopping, not reading.
So he decided to create for himself a List of Betterment, filled with 15 titles he had always planned to read (and sometimes even pretended to have read), but had never gotten around to. Some of the titles were predictable (Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina), some were slightly more abstract (Samuel Beckett's The Unnamable), but all were challenging.
Sometimes a book would take off; sometimes Miller would force himself to adhere to a 50-pages-a-day target in order to finish the work.
Slowly, he found he was back to the joy of reading, but also back to the importance of books in his life.
We read for different reasons, and one of those reasons is to obtain guidance when facing life's myriad challenges. When Miller had finished his first 15 books, he found that he didn't want to stop.
The List of Betterment grew to include 50 titles.
Now it is perpetual, and Miller continues to make his way, undaunted, though the heaviest of tomes.
The Year of Reading Dangerously sets a wonderful example, and reminds us of the important function of books. Yes, they guide, entertain, give us information and advice, and create an emotional connection, but they also give us hope and allow us, when we choose the right book, to be in the presence of truly great art.
Miller's book is a fantastic reminder of the joy that daily reading brings, enriching our lives and nurturing our souls.
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