Reading is my hobby. Even before the movie “The Jane Austen Book Club” came out in theaters, I was reading all of Austen’s novels! I am all of the characters she portrays in her books, weaving my present life situation into each storyline! My love of reading began when I first picked up one of the Nancy Drew mysteries. I think I have read every one of them, plus a lot of the Hardy Boys books (after all, Ned is Nancy’s boyfriend). I thought Nancy had the best life in the world, and I wanted to be just like her, helping her solve all of those mysteries, and to be fearless, just as Nancy was fearless! If you are as passionate about reading as I am, then you know the excitement it brings when you curl up on the sofa with a good book, especially written by Jane Austen! Can you imagine reading “Sense and Sensibility” or “Pride and Prejudice,” bringing characters to life reminiscent of Lizzie, Jane, and Mr. Darcy? What fun it would be for you and I to start our own “book club” and share the same hobby together! Not only would we get the chance to hear each other’s synopsis on what we were reading at the moment, but we could share each other’s company as well! Socialization and conversation all rolled up into our one hobby; reading. There are so many benefits to reading. Reading expands your thinking, especially if you are someone who lacks the means for anything but the essentials of life. Books can export you anywhere in the space of a chapter, using only your imagination! Did you read “Mansfield Park” and imagine yourself in the tiny, dirty room that Fanny and her family shared before she was taken to Mansfield Park at the request of her mother? How do you think Fanny felt amidst the richness and beauty of that magnificent mansion? How do you think she felt about her rich, gloating aunt and uncle? Reading can be a real confidence builder, enhancing self-esteem in one’s eyes as well as the eyes of others. Suppose you were at a dinner party and a subject comes up from a book you just finished? What a boost to your ego to think that you are in a position to take part in this casual conversation because you are well versed. Reading begets knowledge and knowledge begets notice! Reading enhances your ability to focus. You are bending the brain to your will, concentrating on the activities and characters in the chapter at hand. I often find myself daydreaming about my book long after I have put it down. I rehearse in my head the next plot in light of the story I have read so far. Will Lizzie get Mr. Darcy? Will she have Mr. Darcy? We have to wait and see! I think readers can learn diversity and acceptance of other cultures from books. Reading dissolves the fear one might feel from an unknown subject by exposing oneself to another person’s perspective. I work in the International Center at a local college. Three years ago we had a group of ten young Egyptian students come to study on a Fulbright scholarship referred to as the “Egypt Initiative.” Their culture is so different from ours that I thought it helpful to take a humanities class in world religions. I finished the class before the students arrived, and I was very happy I did. I was in procession of knowledge that I otherwise might not have acquired if not for this event. It proved to be very useful in understanding their behavior. I think we can be inspired to accomplish more in life by reading a brief story line written by the author in the introduction, or just inside the flap of the book cover. There are so many positive reasons for making reading your hobby. Reading brings the satisfaction of accomplishment, knowledge, wisdom, and sometimes spiritual growth, and what more can you ask from a hobby? It is sad how reading is getting lost in today’s technological society. Our world is changing exponentially. There is little chance for conversation out in public. People are so rushed for time they barely notice you walk by! Society is becoming totally disconnected from each other. People are consistently staring at their iPhones, iPads, and Androids; checking their Facebook, text messages, apps, and emails! I am afraid the art of book reading will soon become a myth told only by the few people left on earth who were fortunate to have a grandmother telling them a story about their great grandmother reading them a book as a child. Let’s us be that grandmother!