Take a Book Wherever You Go
If you were going to sail round the world alone in a small boat, and could take only one of these things to amuse you, which would you choose:a big iced cake, a beautiful picture, a book, a pack of cards, a paintbox (and paper), a pair of knitting needles and wool, a musical box, a mouth organ ....
It would be a hard choice. Myself, I wouldn't want the cake. I'd eat it too fast. Not the cards, they might blow away. Not the wool, in case it got wet. The mouth organ would be better than the musical box, for one could make up one's own tunes. I wouldn't take the picture, for I could look at the sea. Not the paintbox, because in the end I'd use up all the paper. So the last choice would be between the mouth organ and the book. And I'm pretty sure I'd choose the book.
One book! I can hear someone say. But if you were sailing round the world, you'd have read it hundred times before the trip was over. You'd know it by heart .
And I'd answer, yes, I might read it a hundred times; yes, I might know it by heart. That wouldn't matter. You don't refuse to see your friend, or your mother, or your brother, because you have met them before. You don't leave home because you know what's there.
A book you love is like a friend. It is like home. You meet your friend a hundred times. On the hundred-and-first meeting you can still say, "Well, I never realized you knew that!" You go home every day; after ten years you can still say, "I never noticed how beautiful the light is when it shines on that corner."
There is always something new to find in a book, however often you read it.
When you read a story you do something than no animal can, however well trained; only man can do it; you are stepping out of your mind into someone else's. You are listing to the thoughts of another person. While doing this, you are making your mind work. And making your own mind work is the most interesting thing there is to do.
So I'd sit in my boat and read that book over and over. First I'd think about the people in the story, why they acted the way they did. Then I might wonder why the author wrote that particular story. Then I might carry on the story in my mind, after the end. Then I'd go back and read all my favorite bits and wonder why I liked them best. Then I'd read all the rest and look for things that I hadn't noticed before. Then I'd list the things I learned from the book. Then I'd try to imagine what the writer was like, from the way he's written his story....
It would be like having another person in the boat.
A book you love is a friend. It's a familiar place where you can go when you choose. It's something of your very own, for no two people read the same book in the same way.
If every single person in the world had a book, just one book (they'd have to be able to read it, of course), we'd have a lot less trouble, I am sure.