This was a talk I delivered on World Book Day to fellow authors
Books are important. Their importance can hardly be over emphasized. It is usually said that “When you open a book, you open a new world.”
Some of the richest people in the world have got their riches thanks to books? Jeffrey Preston popularly known as Jeff BEZOS, the founder and CEO of Amazon is a lover of books and a voracious reader. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, loves books and reads avidly. He reads 50 books a year; that is about one book a week. Warren Buffet spends 80% of his time reading. Facebook legend Mark Zuckerberg is an avid reader. Oprah Winfrey tells us “Books were my pass to personal freedom. ”These billionaires and many others admit book reading is what has made them billionaires.
Books are the store house of knowledge; the ware house of the wisdom of the ages. Books are to knowledge what a bank is to money. As we store money in a bank, so do we store knowledge in books. As we go to a bank to draw cash to fill or replenish our pockets, so do we go to books to draw knowledge, information and wisdom to nourish or replenish our minds. In the classroom. The teacher takes the lid off the pail of your mind but you fill the pail through the reading of books.
Books have been with humanity for centuries. Without the books that have been written, today’s knowledge of our ancestors, cultures, and civilizations would not have been possible. Think for a moment where the world would have been without books.
There is an old adage which says ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.” It is indeed. While War weapons destroy the world, books build the world. All the military weapons and armies in the world have not been able to do for the world what books have done.
I believe in books. I believe that books are important. I have read a lot of books. My life is what it is mostly because of the books I have read. I have read books that have helped me surmount obstacles I never would have surmounted. Books have made me incredibly prolific. When my spirits are low, I go straight to a book to lift it.
There are many people who have been transformed from shy and timid persons to bold, self-confident and eloquent persons by books.
There are icons, some of the finest minds I know; some of the most esteemed and respected persons I have met including role models; and what has raised them to such prestigious levels is, undoubtedly books. I know a legendary figure called Professor Bernard Fonlon. What made him such a superhero, and so revered was books.
If the most successful people in the world read a lot, it is because they have understood that knowledge is power and books are a great source of knowledge. Through books we get to meet and drink from the spring of knowledge of great minds both far and near. There are some great personalities that we will never have the chance to meet; people in ivory towers; but we can meet them with ease through their books. Take the Pope, Donald Trump, Barack Obama. Where will we ever meet these super men? But they are available to us to rub shoulders with and tap from their knowledge tank through their books. Great minds abound that threaded the surface of the earth centuries ago but left enduring footprints on the sand of time through their writings.
Through books you can travel to distant places while sitting on the spot. And since traveling is one of the finest ways of learning, books help you learn by traveling vicariously through them.
Books give wings to your imagination. Books sharpen your mind. Books comfort you when your heart aches; when you are going through the dark tunnel of sorrows, worries and fears. Books can teach you to overcome poverty, succeed in life, make a good choice of partner for marriage, have a successful marriage, gain more knowledge of God, gain eternal salvation. Nothing builds the mind more than books.
Books, indeed, are important. And to say books are important is to say the reading of books is important. A book that is not read is of no use. The more you read, the more well-read you are; the more respected and esteemed you will be, and the higher your chances of excelling in life.
It is unfortunate that many of us lack the steam of reading. We erroneously think that it is possible to make it big in our country without much book learning. True that many drop outs are flying high in the administration, in business, in politics etc. and it is often said that if you want to hide something from a Cameroonian, put it in a book. If you want a Cameroonian to find something with ease, put it in a bottle of beer.
But let no one deceive you. Learning is important. We have to read. Through reading we expose ourselves to new things, new information, new methods, new ideas, new ways to solve problems; and ways to achieve goals. Reading stands us in better stead to shine in the world because it improves our understanding of life, people, society, and the world. Everyone has a limited imagination which can be enhanced by reading. Reading enables us to see possibilities which we would not have seen. Through books we tune in to other minds.
It said that between 600. 000 and 1000.000 books are published every year in the USA alone. Then imagine how many books are published yearly in the world.
Reading improves your vocabulary. Reading gives motivation, inspiration, peace, courage, confidence boldness, a positive outlook. You find mentors through books. We learn leadership and communication skills which are vital for success through reading. If you cannot meet your mentors personally, you can meet them through their books.
Through reading we know the world beyond where we are born, where we live or where we work. Through books we become better leaders. A good book can transform your life. Reading opens your mind to new possibilities in business; new vistas, stirs your creativity, stimulates innovation, and encouragement. Reading can inspire you to aspire, never to give up, to keep trying, to keep moving forward, and upwards to higher levels of attainment; to stay positive. Books can sharpen your intellect. In the same way that you build your body muscles through exercise, you build your mind muscle through the reading of books.
Through books we learn from the struggles and triumphs of others. From the greatest collection of knowledge that we have in the world, the Holy Bible we learn about our creator and how to relate with him so that we may gain eternal life in the world beyond. With all this, who can doubt the far-reaching role that books play in the construction of our lives and the world?
But while we extol the virtues of books, we must underscore a reality about them that must not escape our vigilance. Not all books are good books. There are good books and bad books. I admonish all of us to read only good books. Books that fill the mind with noble thoughts. Read books that light the way for you; that give you access to a store of positive knowledge; that provide nourishing food for the well being of the mind.
With an abundance of knowledge overflowing like water in an ocean, in the information superhighway, one way to be accurately informed is through books.
To bolster the point that I have been postulating, let us look at some of the articulations of some juggernauts on books and reading:
Warren Buffet once said, “The key to success is by reading.”
J. K. Rowlings says, “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.”
Ernest Hemingway. “A room without books is like a body without a soul,”
George R.R. Martin: “…a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” (A Game of Thrones).
Abraham Lincoln: ‘The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”
There is an ongoing debate whether printed books, that is, hard covers, and paperbacks have a place in this digital age with flashing screens, Ipads, kindles, tablets, e-books and other related electronic media. While some people think that printed books will soon disappear, others think they will continue to live. That radio, television, film, internet have not killed the newspaper and magazine. However, that is a parenthesis. Our topic is the importance of books and reading. So our take-home is books are important and reading is important, whether on a tablet, ipad, e-book or other electronic media. We must read; and also we must write to carve out our own place in the sun in this world. If the reading of books has lifted people to the peak of the mountain of life, the writing of books has equally done so for many people. Who is that leader who beats William Shakespeare in greatness? Or that beats the writers of the bible? People like Wole Soyinka, Toni Morrison, Samuel Beckett, Jean Paul Satre, and other Nobel Prize winners in Literature got their names into the annals of great figures because of their writings. Continue to write and do not underestimate your own contribution. You never can know.
I have one proposal to make to ACWA. Over the years we have been encouraging writing and reading through reading days and World Book Days. Let us take it further by embarking on an additional reading project among us that will upgrade our reading prowess. Let us encourage one another to read by instituting a Best Reader Award that will go to the best readers among us. We could even extend it to the best reader in our region. We can set a goal of a book a week or a month. With a WhaatsAp group, when you read a new book you write a review or summary and publish in this forum. This will also help sharpen our skills in writing book reviews which is a great skill to acquire for literary gurus that we aspire to be. In the book world those who are informed know that good book reviewers are highly esteemed.
It is my wish and hope that World Book Day will rekindle our interest in books – book writing and reading and that this post will stimulate you to go to your book shelf, library, visit your bookshop, or buy a book from one of us and start reading.