This article on the BBC news site today makes some interesting points about access to wisdom and the value of libraries as free repositories of knowledge. I am certainly of the belief that reading is important. But can it make us happy? It is like the point Alain de Botton makes in his book, The Architecture of Happiness, does architecture make you happy or does the happy person just appreciate beauty more?
I have read books as if my life depended on it since I was a child. I can see that there is a fine balance between experiencing the word outside and learning about the world within, but I cannot undervalue the importance of being exposed to new ideas. A lecturer said to me once, when I was back at University, that there were three types of people: those who talk about each other, those who talk about things and those who talk about ideas. I strive to be the third type of person (although, as a designer, the ‘thing’ requires discussion as well as the ideas behind it) and I cannot help but judge a book by its cover – there are people who spend their lives engaged in the kind of design that relies on you doing just that. But the real, honest to goodness, joy of books – for me – is that they are a direct access to someone else’s world. To their way of seeing things, describing things, and of solving problems. And that ability to understand other people’s worlds, and to communicate directly to them in the appropriate way, is what makes me a good designer. I couldn’t do that without books – talking to people is important too, but it is knowledge, language and imagination, all of which is fed by reading, that makes me good at what I do.
Reading makes us rich in the things that really matter.