The joy of reading, the joy of books

By PAT WATSON

One of the greatest works of collected literature is the Bible. Within that tome some of the best passages are the Poetry Books or Books of Wisdom in the Old Testament – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Solomon. They provide marvelous perspective on human life and are a great source of understanding.

For some people this kind of reading can be life changing. If you ever wanted to have a challenging reading adventure, reading the Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelations 22 is one such.

Among the great things that we humans have done for ourselves, the development of writing and the creation of books are high achievements.

For many of us, the beginning of our exposure to the wider world is often through books.

Books are an affordable means of travel, which take us to real places we may never be able to afford to go and to imaginary places we wish we could go. They introduce us to the lives of people we will never meet in person, yet still afford us the privilege of experiencing their lives.

Opening and reading a book is like entering a party where you can engage in a personal conversation with the rest of the world.

Practically every film out of Hollywood is based on a book. However, regardless of how good the movie is, it is still the book that opens the door.

Some do more than just entertain. Roots, the 1970s television miniseries that so gripped the hearts and minds of millions across the North American viewing audience, was first a seminal novel by Alex Haley.

Aside from the book, the greatest gift readers have been given is the library. Living here in Toronto means that even if a person does not have enough money to spend on books the public library system more than makes up for that. There is no fee for a library card, which is a passport to a wealth of experiences through books.

The Toronto library noted for its outstanding collection of Caribbean literature is Parkdale Library, thanks to the tireless effort of Dr. Rita Cox who made that collection a treasure for this city. One of the great conveniences of the library system here is that even if you never travel to the Parkdale Library you still have access to the collection once you own a library card. Books can be requested from any library and picked up at any other library in the city. So if you live in Scarborough, you can still get a book from the Parkdale Library.

Another pleasure of reading comes with our daily and weekly newspapers. Newspapers of some sort have been around before the start of the Common Era and, along with books, really expanded with the advent of the printing press in the mid-15th Century.

These days, the newest technology – the computer – has transformed our world so that among the older generations of readers there is concern that the book and the newspaper will become obsolete. We can read books using the latest technology in literature – kindle e-book readers – and our news can be read using a mobile phone or other similar PDAs (personal digital assistants). But, at a cost of hundreds of dollars, this latest technology is not affordable for everyone, while a book in first-rate condition can even be bought at a thrift store for two or three dollars and newspapers are just as affordable. Some, like Share, as we well know, are free.

In comparing books to electronic reading devices, well-known Canadian author Margaret Atwood once pointed out that you can’t read an e-book in the bathtub. Besides, there is something about holding a book or a newspaper, or even printed information from the computer – what the news media call the ‘hard copy’ – that creates an added personal dimension to the reading experience.

For children, one of the finest gifts they can receive on any occasion is a book. With Christmas just days away, making a gift of a book would be one of the top things a gift-giver can do for a child. Giving a child a book is like giving him/her the world. Reading to children – of all ages – is also a great way to give your time as a gift that is invaluable.

By the way, one of the best sources in Toronto for books that reflect our diverse African cultures is A Different Booklist (www.adifferentbooklist.com).

On a note of climate change…

Is it really because U.S. President Barack Obama will go to the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen next week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reversed his decision and will now attend? Or, is it because we have just had the warmest November on record, and with no snow?

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