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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 10/29/21 - Embracing Bibliophilia

The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Bibliophilia is by definition related to the love of reading, admiring, and collecting of books. I am guilty as charged. I have always had bedrooms stacked high with volumes read and a pile in the

staging area next to my bed ready for consumption. Since my earliest memory, books and reading have played a central role in my life. The world they opened were both ones intimately shared with the writers of these volumes and one alive within me in ways as real to me as the external world. What I read is constantly influencing how I see what is going on within me and around me as time unfolds.

I was reading All the Presidents Men in elementary school, and then did a deep dive into mass murders and drug culture in junior high school. Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters and Mason were what was going into my head in that era. I recall a Seventh-grade English teacher seeing that I was reading a rather large book in study hall and asking if I was reading one of the classics. I will never forget her face when I showed her the cover and it was Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. Such readings and also science fiction, mainstays of my early life reading have given way to history, biographies and matters related to recovery, politics and the social sciences.

Being a lifelong reader, I have a veritable library within me, stacks of books that have been read and can be referenced and considered in relation to each other and what is happening in the world around me. I cannot even imagine navigating the world without the sails and rudder of information gained through time. It would be like losing my sight or the use of my hands. We are what we learn, and books are one of the things we have to become who we want to be and understand what we want to know about. I like everything about books, other than how heavy they are in a herd.

One of the more recent books that really influenced me was a book about Abraham Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, it turned a lot of what I thought I knew about the Civil War on its head. We get a homogenized version of history that runs in a linear fashion. Lincoln’s presidency was far from that. He was embattled from within his own political party. We damn near lost the civil war or declaring a truce with the Confederacy and ending the union a few times during the conflict. Lincoln was not seen as a competent leader by a majority of the public through much of his presidency. Not what I learned in school at all! After that one I completed Ryan Hamptons book Unsettled on the Opioid Settlement and felt a kinship with his experience of the imbalance caused by money and influence in relation to justice. Last night I wrapped up The Man from Ida Grove: A Senator's Personal Story, a book about Harold Hughes, a man who contributed greatly to the recovery movement in America. Next on my pile is Dopamine Nation, examining what is happening in our heads as a result of media overload in respect to our brains reward system. All of these titles will influence my insights on issues in ways that other readers may relate to. Just about everything I read I find has value and informs all facets of my personal and professional life.

According to this Atlantic Monthly article, around 5% of Americans are like me. Hard core readers who read 50 titles or more a year. There was a period in our history, between the mid-19th and 20th centuries when a larger portion of our citizenry read more avidly than now. It is an interesting article on race, class, gender, and other influences on reading habits. It talks about how to raise a reader. I think I picked the reading habit up from my father who remains a reader well into his 80s. The article notes that books are a low cost, high yield way of becoming and remaining educated. If anyone wants some books for free, let me know as Julie wants me to downsize my stacks.

One of the things I am grateful for is that if there is a season created for reading, it is upon us. Fall and winter seem designed for us readers. One of the most pleasant things to do on a cold winter day when there is nasty weather outside is to pull a book off the stack and spend a Saturday reading. It is even better by a fire, or a window. If there was a season designed for us bibliophiles, we are entering it. I say bring it on!

I am grateful I was exposed to books and reading at an early age. I am also grateful that reading sustained me through times in my life when I was not particularly interested in formal education. When such interests returned, reading filled in the areas of deficit so I was not behind other students. I am grateful for the worlds that reading have opened for me, beyond recovery, I think reading is one of the main element in any success in life I have experienced as a human and not just as traditionally measured. Reading has helped me to be more insightful and empathetic. I am grateful for physical books and find digital reading a poor substitute for a bound volume. I am grateful that reading led to writing as it is also sustaining for me. I am grateful for books.

What are you reading, and what are you grateful for today?

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