Why We Read: The Case for Books as a Means to Many Ends By Lorraine Berry
This article has been published on the Signature website. It begins:
If hell exists, I know that for me, it’s a place without books. Even when I am just out running errands, I always carry a book in my bag with me. You never know when you might have to wait for something, and for me, those stretches of time – brief as they may be – are another opportunity to immerse myself in a world far away from a waiting room.
I am a bibliophile, a lover of books. When I was choosing which graduate school to attend, I admit: I made my choice based on the school’s library. The university rare book room possessed a treasure trove of materials dating back to before the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and plenty of early printed books from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One of the most remarkable experiences I had while conducting research was with a book printed in the 1550s. While just being able to work with such a book thrilled me, what made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience was that the original owner of the book had written notes in the margins. Their marginalia, written in a sixteenth-century hand, made me feel as if we were reading the book together. Even five centuries apart, I noted his reactions to the passage I was reading, and found myself in conversation with the past.