Better read than dead

At our age, anything that promises to add more years to our lives catches our attention.

A magazine article that caught my eye proved book readers live an average of almost two years longer than those who do not read books.

Like most of you, I keep books on my shelves that I revisit as I do longtime friends.

I know my mother read to me a lot, but the truth of the matter is I can’t recall a specific book from my early childhood.  Though when I think back to those lavishly illustrated picture books, they seem more like they were places I visited and not just read about. Books were my virtual reality.

Who was it that said, a book is a dream that you hold in your hand?

The books that most molded, mesmerized and motivated me at the age of 10 were the Nancy Drew series. Many prominent and successful women cite Nancy Drew as encouraging them to take on unconventional roles. Most notable: Hillary Clinton.

Nancy was doing what I couldn’t do but desperately wanted to at that age — to get out. I loved the adventure of a good mystery: how she uncovered facts about people and helped to solve their problems. Now that I think about it, that’s what I ended up doing in my life.

People assume I read a lot of star autobiographies, but I really don’t.  My sister does — then she tells me all the good parts!

Has there been a book that changed my life and the way I think?  The first one that comes to mind is “The Prophet,” a book of 26 poetic fables written in 1923 by Kahil Gibran. Amazon’s website describes it this way: “Gibran’s prophet is rivaled in his wisdom only by the founders of the world’s great religions.”

Someone recently asked me what book I would like to have my name on, as if I had written it. “Gone with the Wind”: What a fabulous book. I’ve read it so many times I can’t count, but it’s never enough.

A good portion of my reading time these days is devoted to proofing my husband’s manuscripts — which makes me think of that ancient proverb: “Make love, not war. Or, if you want to do both, get married and work together!”

Oh, and if you think print is dead and traditional books belong in that great library in the sky, think again.

In 2016, 73 percent of adult Americans 18-plus report reading a printed book in the past year — virtually the same percentage as in 2012. Only 6 percent of Americans exclusively read digital books.

And, are you sitting down? Young people 18 to 29 read more printed books than those of us 65 and over!

For me, there’s still nothing like reading a book and the feel of turning a real page. To my friends who say they just love the smell of books, I am tempted to ask, “You do know how reading works, right?!”

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at The opinions expressed are her own.