Books are wonderful things. 

Reading allows the mind to simultaneously concentrate and wander. A good book can pull you into its spell while allowing your mind to dream up faces and scenes for the characters and the plot.

I usually read about a book or so a week and, after a while, it must be admitted that some stories, some characters, some plots, some titles and some authors become somewhat muddled in memory. Long ago, I gave up trying to put to memory every plot twist and bit of character development.

While a great many stories stick, it is rather a point or an example that sticks most of all. It is something that can apply to one’s life. I seek these things.

Through books, I learned of Winston Churchill’s “wilderness years” activities. 

Churchill spent part of this pre-World War II era, when he was out of power and out of favor, warning Britain about the dangers of Hitler’s Germany. Churchill also spent this period as a writer and he mortared bricks for exercise and relaxation. He had a regimen of writing 2,000 words a day and laying 200 bricks per day. At this rate, both considerable books and great walls are built, piece by piece, day by day, if one keeps to a bit of discipline.

Same goes for a character in Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls.” This character kept a list each day, and she made certain to accomplish each thing on her list day by day, so as time passed, each small thing checked off her lists became the foundation of considerable accomplishment.

Niko Kazantakis’ “Zorba the Greek” spoke volumes to me, still does as one of the few books I occasionally revisit. From Zorba, I learned life can be lived by taking and leaving things. That a little madness is good for the soul. That in work, I may well be someone’s man, but in things like living, singing or the length of my hair, I am my own man. And that life is trouble, and trouble will find you no matter the precaution, so sometimes you must go looking for a little trouble.

In reading books on Theodore Roosevelt, there is always the great quote about trying mighty things and, that in the trying, you may well fail, but at least, unlike so many others, you tried.

From Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove,” I came to appreciate a scene where a character has laid all of her dreams on getting to San Francisco. And an older, wiser character warns her that placing too many hopes on San Francisco or any one thing will likely lead to disappointment. So, he cautions her to trust the simple pleasures, such as a cool drink, a good meal or fine company.

These are only a few things that have stayed with me from some fine books. They are things which struck me so that I have applied many of them to my life. It is one of the points of reading that is rarely discussed: How one thought captured in a sentence or paragraph can have the power to change a life.

Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times.

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