I just came across an interesting piece in Newsweek's My Turn column ( November 21). Alexis Deutsch-Adler writes of coming across the book collection of Mort, her father-in-law shortly after his death. She writes that by the time she met Mort he was 82, and was already succumbing to dementia. Consequently, she really was never able to really know him on a personal level. But his books opened up a window into his life and interests. She writes movingly about how books such as Pearl S. Buck's "The Good Earth or Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones" might have shaped his life and thinking. While many of the works in Mort's collection were biographies or history, much of it was fiction---which was also interesting.
We live in an age where a focus on the bottom line seems to crowd out time for reading anything, let alone fiction. Many busy people go so far as to brag about the fact that they don't have time to read. How tragic and dangerous. Great books are timeless and as Deutsch-Adler writes "...deepen our understanding of each other" and the world. They provide us with knowledge, insight and wisdom beyond what can be learned just from experience, or reading P&L statements. Books are part of living a full and, in my mind "successful" life. The passionate thinker Will Durant (in discussing great writers) said "When we have walked with them awhile, and listened humbly to their speech, we shall be healed of our infirmities, and know the peace that comes of understanding".