Dr. Tanya dropped a wonderfully relevant quote today:
“You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).” — George R.R. Martin, via the author’s FAQ for fans
I have said this before, but here I go again. I went to school. I went to college. I got a degree in (eventually, after trying out half a dozen majors) “Drama/Broadcasting,” probably because I was involved with the radio station.
I grew up with a book in one hand and the world in the other. Always. It was a world of fiction, history, and science. I read everything I could find including the backs of the cereal boxes.
Reading was and is for me the place I go to be free. Within a book, I’m in another world, literally and figuratively. I become the characters. I relate to the era. I feel books.
It’s not that I didn’t learn some things in school. I did and in some areas, quite a lot. Most importantly, I learned how to write a paper of considerable length designed so anyone — regardless of education — can read and absorb it.
Everything else I learned by reading. I read my way through American and English fiction, marched through huge dollops of (translated) Russian literature. The fiction set in times past got me interested in discovering the “real” history. I read my way through medieval British history. I read “Angelique” which brought me into the history of France and the Holy Roman Empire, neither holy nor Roman. Then, figuring I should make this historical quest personal, I began (finally) reading the history of the Jewish people and the Middle East.
When you read a lot, one thing inevitably leads to another.
I bought an antique Chinese porcelain Famille Rose giant ginger jar. I didn’t know what it was other than a big, lovely vase. I had to find out what I had. This led to owning a lot more Chinese porcelain and other artifacts which I was lucky enough to buy before they become popular. I got huge reference books, some of which are written in Chinese, but I could at least compare pictures and dates. That led to more reading about Chinese history, the Sacred City and how so much Chinese history is wrapped up in its art, especially porcelain and silk and the trading of these products with the west.
It all came from books and one giant Famille Rose ginger jar. Somewhere along the way, I learned some Chinese cooking, mostly Cantonese. Because I’m a reader, I also read the introductions to cookbooks on which were explained why that food is made as it is.
I don’t know how anyone can learn without reading. If you read a lot, your mind will blow you to the known and unknown universes by winds of words. They will carry you across continents to places that may not exist but will be real to you.
Reading is magic and if you read, you can be magical too.