While I was at work one day, one of my co-workers approached me and asked if I knew why the buttons on women’s button-up shirts were on the left side and on men’s button-up shirts they were on the right. It was such a random question and yet I knew the answer.
“Yes, I do,” I replied. “It’s because during the pioneer days, when a woman would drive the coach, shirts that were buttoned from right to left had the possibility of ‘peeking’ through spaces between the buttons to their breasts. In order to remedy that, they made women’s shirts button from left to right.”
My co-worker was silent for a bit, processing the information, and then said “Wow! That makes a whole lot of sense. I was wondering why that was and I didn’t think anyone knew.”
Turns out, she was going around the workplace, asking the question to anyone who would listen. I don’t know how much people she asked before she got to me, but I know she went around the room for the next five minutes reciting the information I just gave her to anyone who would listen.
I laughed a bit, then stopped and asked myself how I knew the answer to that question.
Encyclopedia Brown, that’s how.
A book. That’s what it boils down to.
For some odd reason, this experience popped into my mind and throughout the day I’ve been thinking about all the things I learned from books. We all know that reading takes you to worlds you could never discover otherwise, that reading expands your horizons, that reading gives you a wider perspective of things. But what have you truly learned from books?
Here’s a list of random things I learned all because of books and I try my best to name where I read them (and let me just say this is a list of things I learned from fictional reads. And also that this is not an all-inclusive list. There are probably tons of stuff I’ve learned that cannot traced back to a particular book):
I learned …
… that paramedics load the injured party head first because that’s where all the equipment is – Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol
… that vision therapy exists and it’s used to re/train the muscles around the eyes to do certain things – Keep Me Ghosted by Karen Cantwell
… that Disney’s version of fairy tales aren’t always the happily ever after we thought they were – Grimm’s Fairytales
… that a person’s “imprint” is left in a room and can be read by certain types of technology. – Robert Langdon in the Dan Brown Series (And even though this may not exist yet, I have no doubt we’re close.)
… that overpopulation is something we should give serious thought to, even though we ethically can’t do anything about it. – Inferno by Dan Brown
… the basic outline of Divine Comedy, particularly Inferno. – Inferno by Dan Brown
… that “who will guard the guards“ is an excellent question to ask when its meaning is applies. – Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
… the basic hierarchy of the Vatican. – Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
What can I say? I love Dan Brown’s writing. And I’m trying to keep this list more practical than abstract.
… some aspects of time-travel. – Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone and All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
… a lot of general history – Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes, All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, Relatively Dead Series by Sheila Connolly (and I know that’s cheating a little, generalizing like this, but if I go into all the minor things about history I learned from just these few books–let’s just say this will be a really, really long post)
And of course, many more things that my brain can’t seem to conjure up this late in the night. Not to mention that as I go through some of the things I’ve learned, they seem more abstract that I thought and that is for another list.
Books teach us so many things, from random things like why button’s on a shirt is a certain way to major and complex things like what is one way to live a happy life. If you’re not a reader, you’re limiting yourself to one perspective of the world–your perspective–and you owe it to yourself to explore other possibilities.