This time of year publicity for the new fall television schedule is ubiquitous. What will be the hit program? What new star will we be introduced to? What will be the best creative idea for a series?
But there is another medium that is always new even though it is old: the world of books. Uncle Tom's Cabin, written in 1852, exposed the mistreatment of black slaves in the United States, and may be new to someone who is not familiar with what led to the American Civil War. Though the book had a great impact on people’s attitudes toward slavery, there is no specific season for a certain book; all seasons have benefits to the reader. Readers today can still learn important principles from Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Reading is not our nation's favorite pastime. According to self-publishing guru Dan Poynter, one third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Over 40 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. Seventy percent of adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
Yet few activities can enrich a person's life like reading books. You may not be able to travel to Hawaii, but you feel like you have been there after reading James Michener’s Hawaii. You may not have a schedule that allows you to attend a knitting class on a regular basis, but you can learn the skill with a book on how to knit. You have a chronic ailment; learn about it by reading a book on the subject.
Reading enriches your vocabulary. When you come to a word you do not know, you may be able to figure it out from the context. If not, stop for a moment, look up the meaning, and continue reading. You don't have to see a movie to escape into another era; read a book. Some books may interfere with sleep or work because you are caught up in the action of the characters in the book, but the risk is worth it.
Books can change a life because of the information they contain. You might read a self-help book that gives you information to get out of debt, improve your marriage, start a hobby, or find new employment.
Try spending less time on the new television shows this fall. Turn off the flat screen and read a book. Recently, I've learned much about writing by reading Anne Lamont's Bird by Bird, published in 1995, and have been held in suspense by Harlan Coben's current book, Shelter. As Joseph Brodsky said, "There are worse crimes than burning books. One is not reading them."
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. Visit his site to read other valuable articles on effective speaking and listening.