Why we love reading books

When it comes to books, many of us will identify with Francis Bacon’s famous saying, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” But there’s no denying that for those who “just love books,” they hold enormous power over us.

To this day, I have not come across a higher tribute to the power of a book than this line in Talks on the Gita by Vinoba Bhave: “I have received more nourishment from the Gita than my body has from my mother’s milk.”

The sheer love that Bhagavad Gita evinced in one of India’s well-known social reformers clearly shines through his heartfelt words. 

That line and the childlike simplicity of Vinoba’s interpretation of the Gita’s 18 chapters in the book (which was initially delivered as a series of talks) have remained with me through the years. Permanently digested and absorbed, as it were.

What makes books, books

Books can get us started on an inner journey, inspire us to become great leaders, prod us on to pick up or drop habits, teach something new, or simply entertain us for a while.

Some bestsellers, when they catch the fancy of a Hollywood director, turn into big blockbusters.

There’s something about the term “book” that inspires trust, attracts admiration or instills confidence. For one, a book on a given topic is much more elaborate and “serious sounding” than, say, a social post or an article—after all, someone committed months, years, or even decades, to researching and writing it. Besides, it allows readers to engage in a deeper exploration of something at their own pace, in the comfort of their own space.

Images of readers lost in books and holding their favorite cuppa can be found all around us. Some of them evoke nostalgia or even jealousy, usually in a nice way that makes you resolve to “catch up on your reading” in the not-too-distant future.

Alas, if only wishes were books!

Books may demand more in terms of your time compared to watching a film or listening to a podcast, but once they hook you in and grab you by the lapels of your curiosity and hunger for knowledge and understanding, you can hardly, to use a cliche, put them down. You also find it harder to forget the protagonists, storyline, lessons or insights from a book you really liked.

Again, it’s probably true that films or videos provide a bigger visual feast than books. But it’s also true that books give better wings to your imagination and, if I may dare say, a higher canvas to project your thoughts and ideas.

A look at some of the bestselling books of all time—across genres—enables us to appreciate the breadth of their scope and the depth of their impact. From the Bible to The Lord of the Rings, from Principia Mathematica to Das Kapital, from Romeo and Juliet to A Brief History of Time, from Think and Grow Rich to The Innovator’s Dilemma, from The Origin of Species to the Harry Potter series…books have not only captured much of human knowledge but also kept us going in our constant pursuit of happiness.

Let’s catch glimpses of what a few famous folks have said about books and reading:

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” – Haruki Murakami

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” – Gustave Flaubert

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” – Mark Twain

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney

“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” – Malorie Blackman

A book, to borrow a line from the poet John Keats, is a thing of beauty that is a joy for ever.

Three cheers to books, writers and readers!

Cover Image: Vignesh Rajan

With this little doting post devoted to books, we are announcing what we like to call the Freshworks Book Circle. Under FBC, we’ll be featuring, on an ongoing basis, some interesting Freshworkers, the books they love or get inspired by, and some of the learnings they choose to share with fellow readers out there.

Stay tuned.