Reading as Traveling

This is a guest post by Jeremy Anderberg. Jeremy lives in Denver with his wife. During the day he is an editor and writer over at The Art of Manliness. At all other times, he can be found with either a hot cup of coffee, a tall glass of craft beer, or a good book. Often a combination of the three. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyanderberg.

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book path

“Our Reading Lives.” An ominous series name for a bibliophile. How can I possibly reduce an entire life of reading – and the numerous ways the habit has shaped me – into a short and readable blog post?

The best that I’ve come up with is comparing reading to traveling – not something new, necessarily, but something that best applies to my own experience. Whether hours by jet plane, or mere minutes by car, venturing outside the home – to places either new or familiar – has impacted me in many of the same ways that reading has.

1. Reading has been an escape. Sometimes I just need to get away from day-to-day life. Work gets stressful, the house gets messy (at least mine does), the weather is depressing, and I start to go a little bananas. Traveling takes me away from all the everyday worry of life. Books can do the same thing, but from the comfort of my own couch. Getting lost in a book for a couple days (most recently, Incendiary by Chris Cleave) leaves me feeling refreshed and like I can get back to the grind of life.

Books That Have Done This For Me: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fall of Giants, anything by Clive Cussler

 

2. Reading has challenged me. Traveling, while mostly wonderful, certainly has its stressful moments. Especially when you’re in a new place and aren’t comfortable with your surroundings, it can stretch your faculties and force you to rise up to the challenge in front of you. Books can have the same effect and challenge my brain to rise to the occasion (mostly mentally, but with a single-volume Lord of the Rings, it can be physical too). When I dig into an old classic that has unfamiliar language and disjointed prose (here’s lookin’ at you, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin), it takes all I can muster to concentrate and get to the meaning of even just a single sentence before conking out and finding the latest mystery to refresh myself. Or maybe it’s a fat, 1,000-page biography or history book that I know is good for me, but still tough to get through. Mustering up my resolve and plowing through may not always be enjoyable, but it’s always worth it.

Books That Have Done This For Me: Washington: A Life, Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, everything in my philosophy classes during college

 

3. Reading has expanded my mind. Seeing new places and new cultures always opens my mind to the world around me. I know that’s vague, but it just does. I’ve come to realize that the world isn’t just me and my wife and our cute little brick house…people across the world listen to the same music, read the same books, and ultimately want the same things out of life – it’s just how those things happen that looks a little different. I’ve come to learn that the way I do things and the way I think isn’t quite as black and white or as prescriptive as I once thought. Reading a great book can and does have the same exact effect. It brings me to new places and helps me understand that the world is a very big place and a lot more complex than I often make it out to be.

Books That Have Done This For Me: Cutting For Stone, Son of Hamas, The Help

 

4. Reading has helped me see the beauty of the world around me. When I travel, I get to see how truly beautiful our world is. From the Rocky Mountains in my backyard, to the hills of Austria, to New York’s sky-reaching towers, I’ve seen a lot of breathtaking landscapes and cityscapes. And it never gets old. It’s like art on a 360-degree, three-dimensional canvas. There is no feeling like reaching the top of a mountain and seeing the Great Plains to the east and the never-ending Rockies to the west. Its beauty is surreal and leaves me at a loss for words, no matter how many times it happens. Great writing leaves the same impression. Books that have stood the test of time (like the great mountains) have done so for a reason. There are just certain authors and books that so captivate the senses that I can’t do anything but gape and start re-reading as soon as I reach the end.

Books That Have Done This For Me: The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings, To Kill A Mockingbird, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

It’s hard to say which of these is most important. I’ve thought at times that one would outweigh the other, but they all seem to work together and take the lead at various points in my life. And even then, this list is nowhere near a comprehensive telling of how reading has changed me, impacted me, molded me…the list goes on. All I can say definitively is that I would not be the person I am today had I not long ago found a deep love for the written word.

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