In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2003 / 3 Tishrei, 5764

We can't live fully without books

By Bill Tammeus

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | WASHINGTON — When author Pat Conroy addressed the opening session of the recent National Book Festival here, he offered two reasons for the central role books play in creating a civilized society.

The first has to do with the way books can be a vehicle for the transmission of love. When he was a boy, Conroy said, his mother read books to him every night. Now when he writes, "it is still my mother's voice that I hear." He has carried that expression of his mother's love with him for decades.

The second has to do with the way books can help transmit values. Conroy told the story of a woman who read "The Diary of Anne Frank" to her children. When she finished the book, she told her kids this: "I want to raise a family that will hide Jews." When a Jewish family moved in next door to that family, one of the children went over and announced to the new neighbors: "I will hide you."

From my earliest childhood, I have loved books. But I've never given much systematic thought to why they are so crucial to the kind of world most of us want to live in - one that values each human being, that frees people to reach their potential, that cares for the most vulnerable.

Donate to JWR

The National Book Festival and my concurrent visit to the special Anne Frank exhibition at the Holocaust Museum here provided the occasion to think about the role books play in our lives.

Even in this time of technological change - when packets of zipped-up information blaze around the planet at the speed of light and land on our computer screens - nothing has come close to replacing books. They are culture's building blocks, so essential to the shape of our world that it is nearly impossible to imagine how different and impoverished life would be without them.

Think just of Conroy's first point about books as a means of love.

When I sit now with my 16-month-old granddaughter and read books to her, their content is of only secondary importance. Oh, yes, she's learning that "A" is for apple and that Olivia the pig has four aunts. But she's learning something much more important - that someone besides her parents loves her and wants to spend time with her.

Each time we read, she's discovering a little more about who she is but also who her grandfather is and why I love to read to her. She will understand the concept of love and family more quickly because we spend time together with books.

Conroy's other point about books as transmitters of values is more complicated but no less crucial. The reason it's a less-simple concept is that ideas can be both constructive and destructive. Imagine the values that might be transmitted, for instance, if the books adults read to children were mostly propaganda supporting the moronic ideas of white supremacy.

Some books contain ideas that, if adopted and implemented, will lead to disaster. So because books can transmit both good and evil notions, they must be understood as morally neutral carriers of ideas. They are fire, which can either destroy or give light. How we use them is up to us.

Conroy didn't say this, but books also are important agents of democratic ideals. It is no accident that when tyrants want to control people, they ban or burn books. Books provide the means for the nearly the whole population - not just the elite - to be educated and empowered to think critically. A large middle class was impossible before Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type.

It was, of course, theologically important that Gutenberg's work made the Bible available to the masses. That contributed to the Reformation. But it was perhaps more important for the creation of our modern (or now post-modern) world that Gutenberg's work allowed the whole garden of human ideas to be harvested by those masses.

When first lady Laura Bush opened the National Book Festival, she said a "good book is like an unreachable itch. You just can't leave it alone."

However inelegant her way of putting it, that's true. But her focus in the remark was too narrow. Books indeed can absorb us and take us away. But they are far more than items of personal escape.

When I think of my own book, a collection of columns called "A Gift of Meaning," I like to imagine that in a small way, I have joined my voice with the huge chorus of voices that books let us hear. I tell myself immodestly I am helping to undergird civilization. That's the job of all writers. Our job as readers is to discern gold from fool's gold and to celebrate our fortune to live when books are so widely available.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' latest book is "A Gift of Meaning." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. ) To comment, please click here.

© 2003, All rights reserved Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star