The Power of Books

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Submitted by Dr. Rob Norman

What is your first memory of books? During the summer as a child, the bookmobile stopped each week a couple blocks away from my house. I remember the smell of the book’s interior, as if it was palpable and I could slice a piece of it. Books gave me a chance to live others lives, to go on wild and wonderful adventures in my mind and explore the uncharted universe.

The fact that book reading levels have increased is because reading is essential. Books are complex, informative, and entertaining. They improve our imagination, give us stronger analytical thinking skills, and enhance our ability to hold conversations with other humans. It has been scientifically proven to boost intelligence, lower stress, and create better personal relationships by strengthening bonds between parents and children.

In the last few years I have spent a great amount of time looking at, rescuing, and figuring out what to do with almost 200,000 books. Meanwhile, I found myself wondering about the modern state of books as a commodity and resource.

I was asked a few years ago, as a writer and a book lover, to go to a college library in Clearwater, Florida to check out the book collection and figure out what to do with all the books. The library was about to be torn down, along with all the other buildings on the campus, to make way for a new medical school. An estimated 80,000 books were still on the shelves.

I arranged for most of the books to be donated to programs that send books to Africa and donated the others to the Friends of the Library and other charitable groups. I gathered about 50 boxes of children’s books and distributed them to various elementary schools.

I found out the Old Tampa Book Company on Tampa Street was going out of business and I made arrangements to rescue the 55,000 books still inside the crumbling structure. I decided to make a charitable donation to Metropolitan Ministries, moved all of the books out, and I now hire pre-med students to help run the Amazon bookstore and give them the profits to support their goals of medical school.

A 2016 survey from Pew Research describes the reading landscape as primarily physical, not electronic as e-book supporters and techies may believe. They also found that college graduates are four times as likely to read e-books and that e-book consumption is slowly increasing on tablets and smartphones while remaining stable on dedicated e-readers. But most importantly, this study found that since 2012 the number of Americans who have read a book in the last year hasn’t drastically changed.

I hope that this essay encouraged you to pick up and read a good book. You can always listen to a good book on audio while driving, exercising, or relaxing.

Dr. Robert A. Norman is a board-certified dermatologist who has been in practice for over 30 years. Dr. Norman has written 46 books, including The Blue Man and other Stories of the Skin and Discover Magazine’s Vital Signs—True Tales of Medical Mysteries, Obscure Diseases, and Life-Saving Diagnoses.

His new book is on Israeli medicine—The Start-up Nation for Medical Innovation. He has been the editor and contributing writer for 22 medical books including 8 books on Geriatrics and Geriatric Dermatology and published over 300 articles in various major media publications.

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