Men, I can imagine that you are tempted to buy tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry for your sweetheart this year for Valentine’s Day.  But before you do that, why not consider being her a book for about twenty dollars instead?

Oh, I understand the pick-me-up of buying her tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry.  For most of us, those tens of thousands of dollars represent the money we spent working all year, so all that jewelry worth that much means that we have spent every day working only for Her.

But consider the reasoning of buying her a book instead.

A book is actually strong enough to enter another person’s brain, and if the book is worthy enough, it can leave its best remnants there.  Not even million dollar jewelry is capable of doing that  -- I mean, ingratiating itself  sometimes permanently into a person’s thoughts is a gift of the gods.

But if you are considering supplementing your traditional Valentine’s gift either for him or for her with the gift of a book, here are some things that I have thought about in your situation.

First, is your friend a reader?  Does he or she read books?  If not, do not try to change your friend into something new now.  It is too late for that.

The best way to find out if your friend is a reader or not is to ask.  It does no good to simply guess is he or she is a reader based solely on education.

For example, I have known the best educated people to be non-readers because all the reading they were forced to do during their formal period of education was only remembered as formal torture that they managed to endure by superhuman will power. I have seen this especially happening with a lot of barristers who associate reading with reviewing legal codes.

On the other hand, a lot of people with only high school as a formal education are vociferous readers. 

Narrowing into a person’s reading tastes, if a person is close enough to you to be a recipient of your Valentine’s gift, you know already if that person’s favorite books are spiritual, romantic, historical, fantastic or even something  else.  It is from that taste group that you ought to select a book for your friend’s mind.

Still, I think it may be an even more efficacious gesture to share some coaching about what can make the reading of an important book even more important.  Here are three that I try to carefully share with my own students.

  1. Don’t read more than one chapter of a book in any given day.  In fact, it has long been the intention of authors to create chapters as barriers against readers going on the next chapter without stopping to think about what they have just read.  Indeed, the gaps between chapters are actually supposed to serve as literary Sabbath days for the readers who after six days of the physical work of reading need to complete their project by resting and conjuring revelations about what they just worked on. 

Unfortunately, our public schools especially in California are so intent on only getting a lot of reading done that they make their learning readers sometimes complete two or three chapter a night.

After seeing all this happening first hand in our public schools, I can understand why the state is known as having many millions of intelligent people who now hate to read anything . 

  1. If you are reading a large and ambitious book like War and Peace, for example, you will need to keep a notebook to take notes if you don’t want to lose salient aspects of the book and its depicted people.

Otherwise you are really in danger of losing track of all the people who are portrayed in the book.  Non-fiction books usually try to avoid this problem by having an index where you can trace a person’s name to its first mention, but often even non-fiction books will leave that out.

Fiction books with enriched writing such as in the ornate sentences of Vladimir Nabokov can really get you mixed up about characters if you don’t take careful notes while reading a Nabokov book.  For example, I was recently reading in Nabokov’s brilliant novel “The Gift” a chapter believing I was being swept by the presence of a mysterious party guest sitting quietly amid the festivities of a fete.  Then finally I discovered that the quiet person sitting in a chair was actually in a photograph of a quiet person sitting in a chair. 

But that’s what Nabokov – a former professor at such demanding schools as Harvard and Stanford – does when he feels his audience is not paying careful attention to him.  He will give you so much detail that if you do not pay attention to it all he will use his details to derail you.

  1. Now that I am on the third way to read a book, I am already thinking am writing an essay that only a small minority of people in the Santa Clarita Valley will care about investigating it all.  But that is what I have been doing for the past 15 years – avoiding topics that everyone else is writing about so that I can bring to light hidden and hidden aspects of subjects that no one is writing about at all. So if you are really interesting now in more effectively managing your reading,  read more than one book at a time, so that if you are not in the mood to read one of the books, you can go to the other for the day.  For example, I am more in the mood to read books that take place in the tropics when it is sunny outside – Gabriel Garcia-Marquez is one of the greatest of sunny authors for this reason .  Then when it is rainy day, I am in a better mood to read the Russian stories by Anton Chekhov, one of my favorite rainy-day authors.

Finally, if your friend just has no history of ever being encourage to read a book, try going to Amazon and order my new Kindle book, “Every Kind of Angel: Stories and Art about our Helpers.”  It is a collection of my published stories about how angels will enter our lives to either solve our problems or – if that cannot be done – to help us to cope better with our problems, which can sometimes be an even greater blessing.  It is actually a book designed for people who are more comfortable with angels than they are with literary challenges.


Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon