The Joy of Books

I recently came across an article in Brain Pickings about books. In the words of Herman Hesse “Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest… Without the word, without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.”


Herman Hesse

I have always loved books. I was pretty isolated as a child so books were my world. I grew up, life got busy with work, children, and responsibilities so I didn’t have as much time to read. Then I discovered audio books and all that changed. I spent a lot of time in my car as a visiting nurse so this was a wonderful opportunity to listen to books. I could also listen while working around the house and yard. My audio book habit has continued here in Panama.

Technology is a wonderful thing. Between audio books and eBooks, a whole world of books is available and they don’t take up any space or weigh a thing. The internet allows you to access all these books from anywhere you have a connection, and save them to whatever device you prefer.

The article referenced above raised the question of the continuing success of books. Would they be pushed aside by radio and movies, and now in these times, the internet? He says no, no more than photography has hurt painting. “We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satisfied through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority. For even the most childish intoxication with progress will soon be forced to recognize that writing and books have a function that is eternal. It will become evident that formulation in words and the handing on of these formulations through writing are not only important aids but actually the only means by which humanity can have a history and a continuing consciousness of itself.”

For me though, the internet has definitely become another source of things to read, like the Brain Pickings that lands in my mailbox every weekend. I also have pocket, an app that lets you save articles to read off line. The pocket folks send me many emails with links to interesting articles, and there is also Stumble Upon who sends me more articles, and all those articles have links to still others. You could spend your entire life reading interesting stuff on line! But, I digress… this post is about books.

When you think about it, books are really an amazing gift. You can read the thoughts and ideas of people long dead, or the writings of the latest best selling author. There are books for entertainment, for learning, for understanding our world and the people in it. There are books on probably any subject you can imagine. All those people, all that wisdom and experience, all those books carefully written by countless people, they are all just waiting for you to read them.

For me, if I could no longer enjoy books, some of the color would go out of my world. My favorite thing these days is to put on an audio book and go weed the yard. I may look like I’m working hard, but I’m actually having a great time. A good book, the outdoors, the birds, the plants, the yard looking better, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Oh, and the bugs, can’t forget the bugs 😀

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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29 Responses to The Joy of Books

  1. RJ says:

    I was most interested – and honestly a bit surprised – to see you quote Herman Hesse in your Blog, He was a HUGE influence in my life, starting during the “hallucinogenic” period of my life (many years ago of course) and he has continued to mold my thought right up to the present. Journey to the East, and Magister Ludi; The Glass Bead Game were foremost among his writings that influenced me. I had the very good fortune to coincidentally(or perhaps not coincidentally?) read his books in chronological order as he wrote them so I was able to follow the progression of his thought processes over time. Thanks for the warm and fuzzies about Mr. Hesse.


    • Wow, interesting, and how cool I just happened to bring up an author who meant so much to you. He was quoted in the article and I liked what he said, and it went from there.


  2. jim and nena says:

    Books. How can anyone not love books? I admit to trying audio books but I could not get comfortable with them. I would start one, buy the book anyway, and follow along while reading the book. Sanity has never been my forte.
    Remember the Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last”? Avid reader is the sole survivor of atomic war, finds the library still intact, then breaks his glasses. That would be hell for me.
    The last decade of my working years, I wrote tech training manuals. Drier reading can not be found, and still I enjoyed reading them. Now in retirement, I can sit with the grands and read all afternoon. My 4 year old is already reading some, trying to catch her older sisters. Developing a love of reading in kids is the single most important help one can give them for the future.


    • Oh my goodness, that’s awful!! I didn’t have a TV when I was young so I’ve seen only couple Twilight Zones, that not being one of them. Yes hell indeed. Thankfully we have time and the ability to see!


  3. Sunni Morris says:

    I definitely love books and have a personal library of over 1000 of them. I’m not sure how all that will go if I ever move. There are some books i’ll never part with. I have all kinds but mostly I like fiction and escaping into other worlds through some writer’s imagination. I never got into audio books either or the kindle version. I’d rather hold the real thing in my hands and read. I would be totally lost without my books.

    A also have to agree that there’s much on the internet to read and chase down. You could spend days doing that. Probably why I have 5000 emails in my inbox. There’s no time to chase down and read all that stuff.



  4. Mel Spera says:

    I fought against e-books for years. I love the smell, texture and heft of a real book. It truly encompasses all the senses. Then I had to pack for a cruise with a lot of sea days. So I broke down and got a Kindle®. Thirty books on one little device! And not only that but I can check words, phrases, and concepts that I don’t understand. I finally am reading like never before. I haven’t started to use audible books because I like to image the characters and scenario myself, but I can see how they can be very useful. Be careful with an e-book though, I’ve spent an entire day chasing something down the rabbit hole and totally forgotten what was the original point! It’s good to see there are other readers out there. I collect signed first editions now so I can’t read those books, so out comes the e-reader so I can read what I’ve bought. The collection will travel with me, but all my other books will be downloaded for the rainy season😁,


    • Rabbit holes…. LOL Yes, I am familiar with them. One problem with audio books, it’s hard to flip back to a section you want to reread or talk about, but otherwise it’s great for hands free reading. But, as long as there are books in any form, it’s all good!


  5. indacampo says:

    I don’t think life would be half as much fun or interesting without being able to escape with a book. I think my propensity for sitting for hours reading while I was a teen kept me out of trouble. Now, we thank the Tech Gods for the invention of the Kindle for we would be lost without it. And I love the Audible app on my phone. It’s a great little take-along.

    Great observations Kris. 😊


  6. ME BE in Panama says:

    A timely piece, Kris, because as you know Mariah and I are packing up, shedding, minimizing to move to Boquete, and the most painful part of the process for me is parting with books. I’ve collected books for years, and our shelves sag with books I’ve cherished just to have them around and know they’re available, even if I have no intention of re-reading them. I have a Kindle as well, but it will never replace a hold-in-your-hand book, the feel, the sound of a new book as you crack the spine the first time, the lush smell of new paper stamped in ink with a story waiting to be read. As a writer myself I mourn the loss of our collective reading habit, not for the diminishing opportunities to get my own stuff in front of readers, but mostly because reading books, it seems to me, marks a high water mark of a society. I fear we’ve begun a downward slide. Thanks for writing, keep it up and we’ll see you in September–maybe at the library!


    • Ahh that’s right, Boquete has a really nice library. I know what you mean. TV has become the entertainment for many and video games and whatever other distractions are available in these times.


  7. I passed English by doing lots of book reports!


  8. My life would be so empty without books. I’m always in the middle of one. Most of the time fiction – my complete escape into the world created by the author. But also non-fiction so I can continue learning…so much to read and learn. I really do have to resort to buying a Kindle soon. I still enjoy the feel and smell of the actual book, but I’ll be retiring next year and be very mobile. I don’t want one suitcase full of books! LOL!


  9. oldsalt1942 says:

    I have me maternal grandfather to thank for instilling a love of books in me. While my father was in the Pacific during WWII we lived with my mom’s parents. Every night at bedtime my grandpa would read to me. Wonderful things like Uncle Wiggly with it’s cliff-hanger chapter endings.

    My dad was also a big reader and as a kid I wasn’t allowed to have comic books, but any other book was okay. When I was in the 7th grade I tested at having a college freshman’s reading level.

    I’m a GREAT fan of audible books. I haven’t had a television here in Panama for the last five years. Growing up as a kid I remember those days before television when we’d gather around the radio and listen to things like The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and “Tales well calculated to keep you in ..,.. (creaking door hinge)…. SUSPENSE!!!’ made it hard for me to go to sleep without a light on.

    And thank heavens for electronic books!!! Living here where the only decent source for English-language books (the Bookmark in Dolega) is a three-hour round trip bus ride from my home being able to download books off the internet is indispensable. And most of the books I download are on Amazon’s daily 100 FREE list. Some of those are horrible and I chuck them if they don’t grab me in the first chapters and I’ve lost nothing. And every once in a while there’s a real gem like THE SECRET OF WATTENSAW BAYOU Kindle Edition. I have hundreds and hundreds of books but I don’t worry about moving them. They all fit in the palm of my hand via my iPad.

    Going to check out Brain Pickings and Stumble Upon as soon as I click “Post Comment.”


    • Have fun going down the rabbit holes of on line articles! 😀
      I know eBooks and audio books are great when living here. I live closer to the Bookmark but I’ve only been there a couple times myself. Another advantage of on line books, you can read info and reviews by other readers. I resent wasting time on a bad book so that helps.


    • Uncle Wiggly was one of my favorites too!! I still have a couple of those, now in the hands of my daughters.


  10. RJ says:

    Leading up to the year 2000, CNN and Time (magazine) created a list of the 100 most influential people of the second millennium – year 1000 to 2000. As the #1 most influential person of the second millennium they chose Johannes Gutenberg – inventor of the Gutenberg Press in 1439. Its easy to see why he was #1. Before the Gutenberg press very few people were educated, or could even read and write. Perhaps more importantly, very little knowledge and few ideas were passed from generation to generation. Those that were were “controlled and edited” by the privileged few who could read and write. The Gutenberg Press changed all that. Books allowed for the accumulation and sharing of knowledge – knowledge that could henceforth be built on by scholars, scientists, historians and all the other pillars of civilization. Everything that followed owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gutenberg. I’m sure Mr. Hesse would agree – and he would be pleased.


    • Oh yes, absolutely changed everything! Before, wasn’t it mostly in the hands of the church people and the monks who would spend their days hand writing books? Yes, the ability to print was a major step and I agree, we all owe him a huge thank you.


  11. Pingback: Talk Thursday ~ The evolution of the book | In Da Campo

  12. Books…don’t know how I’d manage to move without carting most of my lifelong collection with me. Haven’t been able to accustomize myself to e-books, i-books, audio books – any of those yet. My brain functions differently somehow, between paper and electronic versions. I’ve moved from continent to continent, and my books are always the first possessions that get packed. Sigh.
    Enjoyed reading your post Kris, and it reminded me of one of the monumental tasks I would face if I did manage to make the currently dreamed of move to Panama.


  13. Yolande Scotland says:

    So glad to read other people’s comments which gve me a nice feeling of a “common love” between us. Books provide companionship from the shared thoughts and feelings of others so I am never lonely while I have hem. Also, reading the same book later as an octogenarian and in a new world, opens a much wider approach which is very exciting. What you are doing Kris is wonderful. Thanks


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