My Three Lessons

Quinn Soltesz, Entertainment/Features editor

I believe that everything can be learned through the power of literature. Obviously, it is true that in theory, a person could learn everything about any topic by reading a textbook or Wikipedia, but that is not my point. Learning is more than just factual information; it is acquiring insight into the nuances that are seen in our everyday world. These nuances, which are so often hard to pick up on in the real world, are best learned by reading.

Books have been the way in which I have transported myself to worlds I have never seen before. Or into the heads of people whom I have never met, or never could meet. This is where I draw the power of reading from. This power, which I often forget about, was crucial, and is still crucial, to my education.

I have always been a reader. I have always learned the most about the way people “are” when I have read about them. Each time I pick up a book, I always try to garner some sort of new information about a subject.

When I first started truly consuming books, not just for conventional learning purposes, but for the purpose of learning beyond the words, it was around the middle of elementary school. I was a quick convert to the library and only grew from there. At this point, I was not reading in order to learn some crucial insight about the world, but just for the story and substance. What reading was providing me was an escape. Not that my life was hard, but it was important to me that I had a space outside of my regular world. This was my first encounter with the power of reading.

My second encounter came years later when I discovered that reading was more than just for conventional learning or for a fun escape. I read The Catcher in the Rye and found that books could speak to me, and teach me about my own situations. I was around the same age as the novel’s narrator and definitely related to his story and angsty “struggle”. Will I still relate to it when I reread in 10, 20, or 30 years? Who knows, and that fact is unimportant because I learned that reading could help me work through things and that characters could be more than just extensions of the plot.

My third lesson in the power of reading is ongoing. After Catcher I began to look harder at the books I read, always seeking to find that “Meaning” that was there in the first book I ever truly loved. This process was often futile, and I suspect it always will be. This is because my third lesson can never be complete. I will never truly know the plights of people who live next door to me or understand the deep cultural divides of a region 5000 miles away. But I can read about them, and I can gain the smallest insights into the struggles and conflicts and triumphs of the humans I inhabit this planet with. That is the power of reading, and it is the power that I believe most in in this world.