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life's fitness \ on reading

I am addicted to reading. You know, the type of person who (almost always) reads a book or a journal cover-to-cover.

That said, it hasn't been so from the very beginning. The choice of set books in my childhood was as dull as ditch water - not to mention the teachers' somewhat limited capacities to ignite the reading passion. The Polish philosopher Józef Tischner once said that the local parish priest can be blamed for making more people lose their faith than reaching out for Marx and Engels...

Yet, I was fortunate enough to catch the bug (in a peculiar way, though). It was around the release date of the hit-selling RPG video game Baldur's Gate in the mid-1990s. While I couldn't afford to buy it, a more price-approachable fantasy novel accompanying the premiere was published, too. Oh boy, what a potboiler it was! However, I didn't know how to discern a good from a bad read back in my early teens.

Notwithstanding the quality of that book (in all fairness, I read far worse books from the Forgotten Realms), I got my wheels spinning. Sorry, pages turning. On the flip side, I also got my young hands on masterpieces that still embellish my bookshelves, including Loup Durand's Daddy. Ironically, it was a book awarded to me by my school - the very same which 'system' was so keen on discouraging me from reading during the usual terms!

And here's the central message of this post - reading, like many other aspects of life, requires apprenticeship. There is an upside to reading various things - it makes it easier to pinpoint what we like and what doesn't wag our tails.

I think there is also no point in following the 'X-number of books you need to read' or 'The most outstanding authors of the X-century' lists. I have been there, done that, and frankly speaking, I had to resell some of the "classics" at auctions because they 'didn't spark joy.'

It was, I believe, Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, the first book in my life that I didn't finish deliberately. I mean, that stuff was like drinking uber-lemon balm... That had poured setwall atop it for good measure. Good riddance!

But here's the thing - I'm all in for exploding the myths and toppling the authority figures, even if they have a cult-like following. Yet, to do so, one must have the toolbox for it. And that means reading a lot - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don't get me wrong: a healthy deal of beautiful books pop up along the journey. Occasionally, a 'meh' thing as well.

In addition, don't be afraid to voice your concerns. Example? I fell in love with Frank Herbert's Dune in my late teens. I read the entire original series throughout the years, and for me, it could very well end with Children of Dune. The rest was a downhill experience, with the last publication in the set being hardly readable.

Is it objective? Is it subjective? Neither. It is intersubjective, as we can talk about books even though we often disagree. But at least we're able to understand why and about what our thoughts take separate trains, so to say. But believing in classics or authors that, for whatever reason, became highly successful puts a barrier between us, which derails any discussion before it starts to roll. Instead, believe in yourself and relish the lifelong, experience-building act of reading!

Here is also a paradox: while you need to have some artistic sensibility to value reading, it also requires being thick-skinned. Sadly, there will always be somebody ready to (willingly or not) tarnish your most-cherished book (or series) - even if it is the authors themselves. I still haven't pulled myself together after the last novel in the up till then beloved The Cemetery of Forgotten Books by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - what a shameless outburst of graphomania! You see? It hurts. But, well, that's a lesson.

To top the post off, think of all the marvellous things reading can provide, from access to a universe of ideas, emotions, adventures and experiences, through the colourful breakout from the rut of daily life, via gaining knowledge, understanding and new skills, to giving inspiration and motivation - not to mention keeping your brain in fine fettle!

Reading is, in a sense, life's fitness.

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