There’s No Wrong Way to Engage With Books

Vincent Van Patten

Why tangible books, e-books, & audiobooks all deserve to be loved

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Reading is an escape into another age, crafted from the breadth of time and place. The writer took their perception of the human condition, and they set it down. It’s their story; nevertheless, it makes me see my own differently.

I find profound joy getting lost in a book, transported by the fundamentally human connection between the author and reader, joined by the perennial words on the page.

As a result of events through time, I find myself meditating on these words. They may be from two thousand years ago — as with the Bible — or by a contemporary author writing to make sense of our modern day.

No other medium provides a direct insight into the minds of everyday people from every epoch of history. Reading is perception — nothing about life is absolute.

It excites me to learn about how cities, governments, and societies have changed, yet the human spirit has remained.

The spirit strives. It writes to make sense of the hand we’ve been dealt.

Our problems, thoughts, and joys aren’t novel. There’s solace in that; I can approach the same issues I’m dealing with today through a different set of eyes.

I’m lucky to be here, comfortable, in fluid conversation with those who set their ideas in stone.

An infinite amount of information has never been so accessible.

To capitalize on the wealth of knowledge available, I’ve featured the three different means of engaging with books: the tangible, audiobooks, and e-books. There are values and advantages to be derived from each.

The Tangible

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The feeling of holding a book in my hand is a treasure I believe I share with many others. My favorite books serve as anchors of my past; glancing at the novels on my shelf makes me truly happy.

I admire the book’s packaging: the cover, the colors and textures, and the type and feel of the page. As someone who aspires to write books, I appreciate the craftsmanship and character of a well put together book. It becomes part of the story.

When I open a book and see my notes in the margins and the turned-in corners of the annotated pages, I smile. I step across a bridge of thought and remember who I was.

I prefer classics as tangible books. Although, I don’t believe Hemingway or Tolstoy would mind us reading Anna Karenina or A Moveable Feast as an e-book.

They wrote to unleash the energy they held within. I like to think the literary giants are smiling down on us, knowing their words are being considered today in any form and sparking joy.

When I travel, I try to visit a bookstore in every new city. The book I purchase becomes a part of me; I remember the distinct time and place when I see it on my shelf, like stepping back into a dream.

To genuinely experience a city, one must live as the locals do: sitting at a park or cafe, reading a book, and letting the day unfold.

In a bookstore, I can idle away an hour perusing the classics from authors of that country or browsing through educational books on the region.

In the small bookstores I’ve visited in my favorite cities — Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and New York, I see the shopkeeper and believe I could be happy as they seem to be — immersed in the domain of words and old pages.

Re-reading books is something we can do throughout our entire lives and never derive the same lessons twice. The book once again becomes a part of us and who we are in our present season of life.

Audiobooks

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The audiobook’s most significant advantage is learning while on the move. I can get through books more quickly if they’re behemoths, such as Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow.

Biographies, business, and self-help books serve well as audiobooks. There’s value attained from re-visiting old audiobooks at any time in my library when I need a motivational pick-me-up.

When listening to audiobooks, the author’s spirit affects the reader in a way that is different from reading a physical book. Neil Gaiman, for example, has a downright lovely reading voice.

For road trips, flights, or when you want to let your mind drift, give him a go. I enjoyed his entertaining re-telling of classic Nordic lore in Norse Mythology.

Walter Isaacson is one of my favorite authors for his in-depth biographies of Benjamin FranklinLeonardo da Vinciand Albert Einstein.

All of these were riveting audiobooks; I recall listening to them on long walks and being captivated by these men’s stories. I’d have to stop and ponder what I’d heard.

These iconic figures were ordinary men — I felt I’d known them, and in a way, I’d better known myself. They make me observe every day in an utterly different lens.

Made In Scotland: My Grand Adventures in a Wee Country by Billy Connolly was another fantastic audiobook. The autobiography is a hilarious and inspiring story about growing up in Scotland. As a bonus, you get to listen to his jolly Scottish accent.

At the moment, I’m listening to The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris and Harry Chase.

Roosevelt was unlike anyone; this epic tale paints him as an ardent political powerhouse, who at heart wanted to be a cowboy. He fostered a deep love for the wild American Badlands. The book beautifully highlights the relationship.

E-books

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E-books are advantageous because I can jam through them quickly at idle moments throughout the day — say, waiting at a car wash.

Instead of scrolling through social media, I’d rather power through a few pages. These odd moments pile up and make it easy to get through shorter books relatively quickly.

They’re beneficial for highlighting and saving passages and quotes from the free Kindle app, then storing on an app like Evernote.

Evernote is my most essential app, both on my phone and computer. It’s where I keep track of my ideas, book quotes, saved articles and pictures, and everything else which tickles my fancy.

I recently read Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, on the Kindle app. It’s a beautiful book Hesse wrote in 1922 about Siddhartha’s journey thousands of years ago on the cyclical odyssey of life.

It worked excellently as an e-book with so many thoughtful quotes and lessons that I wanted to save on Evernote. Many books such as Siddhartha are free as e-books — another reason to utilize them.

We can never be exposed to enough ulterior perspectives of the world. The writer’s individuality makes reading subjective; we can try to imagine what they were attempting to create — yet, we will never honestly know what was going on within them.

An author may now be a part of this earth — still, their spirit lives in the words they offered.

They didn’t know what the future would hold. But here we are in the modern-day, deriving meaning from what they wrote. The words may have an impact on us, which the writer couldn’t ever have imagined.

There’s no wrong way to read, as the different styles will appeal to different people. As long as we’re learning and expanding our minds, we can only get better.

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My name is Vincent Van Patten. This is my home, a place to share who I am and what lights my soul on fire. I’m a writer, media creator, and co-host of The Dare to Dream Podcast. Most importantly, I’m an inspired citizen of our ever-changing world. I strive to learn all that I can about how we’ve progressed to where we are today as individual cultures and as a planet. It’s my passion to fill every day with exploration and creativity no matter where I am, whether in California crafting my latest project or on my way to discover someplace new. By writing about my experiences, connecting with people and the earth, and remaining present, I always feel at home. I write to express my perspective of daily living, from the thoughts in my head to the relationships we share as human beings. I write about travel, culture, books, life, philosophy, spirituality, health, self-improvement, and history. I also write poetry and short stories  —  doing so soothes the soul. I believe we’re here to challenge ourselves by questioning all we think we know. When we do, we open our minds to a way of living we could never have imagined. This life is a journey with no finish line in sight. I hope to leave a positive impact with every step I take.

Del Mar, CA
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