Ramble on Reading

“My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck, on my distant and day-long ramble;
They rise together—they slowly circle around.” — Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

My ordinary view on rambling is that it should be limited to the young and to the old, but I’m in the particular kind of mood you have to be in to ramble. Which is to say I’m feeling reflective and open — a dangerous combination. What follows are some of the ways books have changed me:

I used to rely on people to make me read until I learned to read on my own.

I used to be bored until I learned that, with the assistance of a book, my mind is a new playground everyday.

I used to think I was interested only in philosophy texts until I realized that any story worth reading offers a new way to live.

I used to spend time reading book lists and plotting my reading course until I realized that was akin to trying to plan every phase of your life.

I used to avoid some books, because I thought each had to teach me a lesson, until I realized that a good book might mirror the murkiness of life.

I used to consider books sacred and I refused to write in them until I realized my annotations are my own thoughts and started valuing thoughts more than paper.

I used to look forward to trips to the bookstore, and I still do, but one day I realized I’d rather be reading if I had to choose between the two.

I used to think I needed complete silence to read until I realized the best Stoics could study in any environment.

I used to lose concentration when I read, sometimes mid-sentence, until I realized training yourself to read long books is like training yourself to run a marathon, you do it one sentence at a time just like you put one foot in front of the other to run.

I used to stare at the TV for hours, and I still watch on occasion, but now I get bored with TV long before I get bored with a book.

I used to joke about never reading War and Peace and now I joke about needing to read it again, soon.

I used to think of The Great Gatsby as a book you read in high school and then put away forever until I realized we need that book more as adults than ever and that it means something very different to read it at 32 than it did at 15.

I used to avoid Shakespeare on the page until I saw it acted in real life.

I used to be afraid of The Leaves of Grass until I read about the assassination of Lincoln and the Civil War and I realized I was avoiding a book that helped America be reborn.

I used to look down on certain books in an insecure attempt to prove I was better than the people who read them until I saw that a generation of readers could be born from a book series starring a wizard or a girl with a bow.

I used to think that men of action were heroes until I learned those men need education behind their action to pass as heroes.

I used to take books from the library and never return them, a sin, now I invite people over and give them books and hope they never return them, but instead send them out into the world where they’ll strike each new reader like a bolt of electricity, like they’ve struck me.

I used to think the reason to read was to win arguments until I realized the reason to read is to be keen enough to avoid them all together.

I used to see Jane Eyre as a strange Victorian princess until I read her encounter with St. John Rivers and saw Bronte’s depth of perception as expressed through Jane; now I consider her a friend that offers good advice.

I used to think that the Odyssey and the Iliad were books about one man until I realized they were books about all men.

I used to think the Bible was a prescriptive text until I realized it does a good job of identifying the pitfalls, but can never offer all of the answers; a good reader has to close the gap on their own.

I used to think a good movie would beat a good book until I read enough to be comfortable with the details of everyday life.

I could go on because a lot has changed. I don’t want to get too sappy, but I owe it to the books I’ve spent time with and the people, like you, who’ve shared your passion for reading with me. Thank you for helping me grow and for letting me ramble.

 Photo: Some rights reserved by FeatheredTar.


  1. Anjali

    That post is pure poetry. Books can do all of that and more, because they carry the thoughts of all mankind.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Thank you. You’re right. I limit myself to those only because they’re the things that come to mind when I was writing, but there is so much more that could be said.

  2. T. Lloyd Reilly

    It’s amazing the obstacles we put in our way. I am guilty of more than a few of your rambles. However, in the process of becoming a writer I have discovered that the only limitations in literature are those that are self imposed. This post was a good read…Thank you.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Very true. I used to limit myself until I realized those limitations were self-imposed.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      What are you working on these days and where can we find it?

      1. T. Lloyd Reilly

        I have been working on some blog posts of my own, and work on a novel in progress.

        I pitched you about a guest post based on the Six Mistakes of Man by Cicero but have had trouble with it. I might have made a mistake in thinking it would work. I am not giving up, though, just giving it some additional time to rattle around in my head.

        If there is something else you are looking for, let me know and perhaps it won’t fall victim to lofty ideas. Any time you want to see what I am doing you can go to http://about.me/tlloydreilly.

        1. Read.Learn.Write

          I knew about the guest post and hope the percolation helps. I like the idea.

          I read your blog, of course.

          I guess I was really angling to find out if a novel was in the works and it sounds like it is. Excited to read it.

  3. Chris

    What a great read! I used to read blog posts and never comment, and now I make it a point to comment on everything that I read online and enjoy, and write letters of appreciation to as many authors and writers as possible.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Thank you. I like your riff.

      I can’t imagine having a blog and not occasionally getting a comment, at least. I probably would have shut down a long time ago without some feedback. So, it doesn’t go unnoticed – it can’t. I appreciate the support and I know the other writers you reach out to do as well.

  4. Church Johnson

    Great way of putting your truth ideas out there. I love the way this whole piece went. I enjoy great content and this was really great. Thank you.

    Church Johnson


    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  5. Anita

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and putting the time and effort into refining them first.

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Thank you, Anita.

  6. Andrew Blackman

    Hey, you should ramble more often – you’re good at it! I identified with a lot of them, e.g. sacred books vs annotating, and about winning or avoiding arguments. Now that I read the post again, I don’t think it’s really a ramble at all – I think you’re just too self-deprecating!

    1. Read.Learn.Write

      Thanks. I appreciate that you took the time to read it once, let alone twice.

      Glad there was something in it you could relate to.

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