We take books for granted these days for there is an excess of them all around us. Books have become a part of human life, from childhood to old age. But if only we pause to think, can we name anything other than books that may be so justly called the quintessence of the human mind? Human beings are unique creatures on earth because of their mental and intellectual faculties and power of expression. These faculties are expressed in books.
Books have influenced many a great man and mind. It would be correct to say that the invention of the printing press was perhaps the greatest achievements of science, for it gave man his best companions, true friends, philosophers and guides – that is ‘books’. I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who didn’t love reading – wrote Macaulay. Similarly, Ruskin Bond likened good books to king’s treasuries for their wisdom. Walter Pater’s boo on Garibaldi made the young Nehru a nationalist over night. On reading Fitzgerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubiyat, Eliot took to writing poetry and carved a niche for himself in the works of literary figures. The influence of the Gita, Ramayana and Bible on Gandhi was profound. Keats as a poet was born at the age of sixteen after he read Chapman’s translation of Homer’s Greek classics. The human mind is receptive to ideas, knowledge and wisdom which the books provide in abundance.
Just as food is essential for physical survival, books are essential for intellectual sustenance. It is indeed true that, man does not live by bread alone. Books influence minds of men radically. An idea or two contained in a book may be ample food for thought for a lifetime. Karl Marx’s Das Capital and Communist Manifesto were mere books but they changed the course of history, indeed, the very thought of man, and brought about a revolution. These two books are now considered to be bibles of communism.
Books have the power to delight and enthrall the human minds endlessly. One comes to gather a lot about different lands, their languages, people, religion, customs, faiths, cultures, flora and fauna, climates from the accounts available in the books. Besides, books serve as a social correctives and reformers and play a vital role in revolutionizing public opinion and reforming the moral tone of human society was through books that Hobbes gave impetus to the civil war of 1642 and Locke to the revolution of 1688.
The influence of books can be detrimental, too. An evil aspect of the abuse of the books is the vulgarity that it let loose is the pornographic and obscene books which have a degrading and debasing influence on the human mind. They are meant for titillating their readers but the damage done by such books is unfathomable. Such books should be avoided by the reader as they mislead and defile the mind.
Books are inseparable from human life and perhaps the ideal companions in solitude. They are a source of inspiration, pleasure and mental contentment. Readers will never be jilted in their love for books. Books offer the entire philosophy of life in its various aspects. They cover a wide range and variety of topics and are storehouses of both fact and fiction. All said and done, the influence of books on the human mind cannot be gainsaid – whether for the good and for the bad.