What do we mean by the joy of reading? Joy is nothing but a feeling of happiness and fulfillment. How and when do you get this feeling while reading a book? You get this feeling when you get absorbed while reading a book. But when and how do you get absorbed while reading a book? There are two things that lead to this kind of joy. You get absorbed in a book when you feel at home with it, which means when you develop an affinity with the author while reading his book.

You feel as if you know the author and he or she knows you. This is interesting. Isn’t? An author whom you may not have met, an author who may have lived thousands of kilometres away from you, or an author who might have died even hundreds and thousands of years ago before you were born and yet you have formed a bond of affinity with him or her, because as if the author knows you and you know the author intimately. When you read something like this you enjoy what you read. This is the joy of reading.

There is another aspect of the joy of reading. That is nothing but a journey of exploration and wonderment. How does it happen? Here is an author you have heard of but never read. Or you have even not heard of her, but by chance, you have come to her and now trying to read a book by her. After reading a few pages, you are shocked. You feel -my god what is she writing?  How come she could write this?

This is completely a different world for me. I never thought that something like this was possible! That means, here the author is taking you to a completely new world, a new horizon that never existed for you before you met this author. Here is a sense of exploration and wonderment. Again, the subject could be anything. It may be fiction or non-fiction. It could be something pertaining to the natural sciences or social sciences, or even medical science and psychology. While reading a book like this you forget everything and get absorbed in it. This is also one kind of joy of reading.

But remember one thing. You need some training to get joy out of reading.  It never happens automatically or spontaneously. Initially, you need to work hard. Like any journey, reading is also a journey from the known to the unknown. When you read a book you cannot afford to skip all the difficult words you come across in the book. At times you have to stop and look for the meaning of a difficult word in the dictionary if the word is a keyword in understanding the text.

The same applies to a concept also. What happens? At times we go on reading a book even if we don’t understand it at the beginning. Things get clearer when our reading progresses. But this may not be the case always. If the fog at the beginning is not cleared you may not see the road ahead. Then it is better to stop and do some hard work. You can always look for it on the internet. You can also consult knowledgeable people in the respective field. If you walk your way in this manner one day you will surely feel the joy of reading.

There is a third aspect of the joy of reading. Do you know what happened to me recently? I was seeing the ad for a book called “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” by  C G Jung on Facebook. I have heard a great deal about Carl Jung but knew very little about him. This is the autobiography of Carl Jung, the great psychologist after Freud. I thought I must get this book and read it. I got the book and started reading it. After reading some portion, Jung referred to a philosopher called Schopenhauer. So I stopped reading Jung and went to read Schopenhauer. But I found that to understand Schopenhauer I must read Emanuel Kant first.

So before reading Schopenhauer I read Kant. Oh, I forgot to tell you here that someone told me that to understand Jung I must read Freud’s autobiography first,  which is not a very big but very interesting one. I read that book too. In this manner, while I was going from one author to another, I went to Delhi and in a Khan Market bookshop bought a book called “Essays And Aphorism” by Arthur Schopenhauer.

And do you know what the translator and introduction writer of the book, R J Hollingdale said in the introduction of the book? He said, “Much of what in other nineteenth-century literature went into novels, plays and poetry, in Germany went into philosophy, and this includes much of what was most original. There are no doubt other reasons for this, but one reason is certainly the overwhelming presence of Goethe.”  Now, after this what do expect me to do? Certainly, you expect me to go to Goethe and to his great work Faust.

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Paresh Malakar

Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: malakarparesh@gmail.com