I’ve been reading the encyclopedia at night.
This is my second set of this encyclopedia. The first set I bought in the early 90s, when I still had children at home. The woman who was selling them door-to-door was agreeably stunned when I welcomed her with, “Come in! You’re just the person I wanted to see!”
I had been contemplating an encyclopedia purchase for some time, and had been critically examining the different publishers whose works were at the local public library. One famous name encyclopedia got crossed off my list because it was far too comprehensive: it told me everything I never wanted to know about the subjects it covered. When I said that to the saleswoman, she thought it was hilarious. (I didn’t blame her!)
This brand of encyclopedia had impressed me because, in addition to its manageable size for easy handling by people with small hands (which included me as well as my kids), the layout was easy to navigate to find topics, and it was written at a common-sense reading level that would neither overwhelm children nor bore adults.
I sank a lot of money into the first set of this encyclopedia, signing up for the annual update and a specialty update volume. Eventually my budget dictated that the updates had to stop, but I got enough mileage out of the set while homeschooling my kids to make the whole investment worthwhile. When my youngest son left home, I gave him the complete set.
Years later, when the company held a clearance sale of their 2010 edition (pictured), I decided that the very deeply discounted price justified my investing in a set of my own. This time, I did not splash out for any supplemental volumes, because now there was a flourishing internet to supply any updated information I might want to know. Otherwise, for most of what I need to research, it’s always been faster for me to find things by flipping through real pages than waiting for a website to load and re-load virtual pages.
For the following several years, I mainly used the encyclopedia for research having to do with my writing. Over the past few months, I’ve launched into a long-term goal: to read the whole set, cover to cover. My best time for reading is bedtime, which is when I need to unwind from days which are filled with assorted chronic pains. I decided to start at the end of the alphabet, and recently finished the last volume.
There are a lot of advantages to reading an encyclopedia at bedtime. There are short entries for when I’m tired enough not to need to read myself to sleep, and long ones for when I need to escape into the printed page for a while. And since sleep health professionals advise to stop screen reading in advance of retiring for the night, there’s plenty of material in an encyclopedia to provide years of preparation for falling asleep easily.
Have you ever read an encyclopedia for enjoyment?
What are you reading at bedtime?
Do you switch to paper paper pages before going to bed?
If books have any magic at all, it’s the ability to bring a reader so seamlessly close to another’s lived experiences and memories – even fictional ones – that it’s as if some of the wisdom, power, and overall emotional tenor of that life was your own. It’s this empathetic space, between memories and dreams, in which books seem to be most potent to me.