By Catherine Ward, Haymarket Gainesville Library
This may sound like a silly thing to say, but there is so much we don’t know. Whether it’s related to history, television, or medicine, there are so many little facts out there that can lead to significant discoveries. Did you know that Mr. Rogers was red-green colorblind? Or that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa from the Food Network, once worked in the White House as a budget analyst? Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body? I didn’t! Thus, the power and importance of books. Anything and everything you could ever wish to learn is sitting on a shelf somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Whether you prefer a digital resource or a physical book, the answers are out there. You just need to be willing to go out and find them – and Prince William Public Libraries is a great place to start.
Let me ask you this: How often are you truly surprised by something you read? Take a moment and really think about it. How often do you learn something that makes you stop and wonder, “What else don’t I know about x-y-z?” Personally, I find myself asking this question again and again the more I read. It’s a really compelling question, and one that can lead to fascinating insights and productive discussions with friends and family. I have come to realize that it is so important to never stop learning and that there is an entire world of information right at our fingertips.
I stumbled upon this realization early on and it has since propelled me to expand my literary interests in several different directions. All for the better, I might add. In my high school years, I tended to stick to mystery and fiction, only delving into other areas of literature if I was required to. When I entered college, however, my studies compelled me to stretch beyond my literary comfort zone. Honestly, I will be forever grateful to those teachers who encouraged me to reach across the literary aisle, so to speak, and read more nonfiction. So, I did, starting with biographies and autobiographies. This is when what I would like to call my “literary awakening” occurred and I began asking myself, “What else don’t I know?”
One genre led to another. Sometimes, they even overlapped. The book “Ten Days in A Mad-House,” a biography about Nellie Bly, taught me about our country’s history with psychiatry and mental illness. Bly was a 19th century journalist who faked insanity to get admitted to the Blackwell’s Island insane asylum in New York. She ended up exposing the asylum’s horrific treatment of patients. Her work was revolutionary and of immense importance. Reading about Bly’s experiences piqued my interest in the field of journalistic reporting. Moved by curiosity, I started reading more books written by journalists like “Truevine” by Beth Macy and “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou. I also began reading more works relating to the fields of medicine and psychology, like “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida and “Brain on Fire” by Susannah Cahalan. Do you see the domino effect? One genre connects to another, connects to another. Curiosity is a powerful thing.
Let’s face it. There is so much we weren’t taught in school. Teachers have only so much time to fit in as much information as possible before the kids are out the door. We have such a vast expanse of knowledge available to us through our local libraries. Not taking full advantage of their resources almost feels as if we are doing ourselves a disservice. If you are curious about something, go out and research it. If you have questions about x-y-z, get out there and hunt down the answers. I promise you it is easier than you might think. Head to your local library and ask your librarians for suggestions or advice. That’s what we’re here for! Think you’re not interested in learning about history? Or the medical field? Or about your favorite actor, singer, or athlete? Don’t be afraid to read outside of your comfort zone. There is so much waiting for you. Once you decide to open the door to a new genre, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.