One of the (many) things I have learned in graduate school is how much a bad book can affect you — while a good book can often lift your spirits.
This weekend, while researching a paper on the forest for my “Psyche & Nature” class, I read Alexander Porteous’ The Forest in Folklore and Mythology, which, while presenting many stories of the forest and trees in myth and folk tradition, made no effort to tie them together in any coherent whole. It was more a catalogue of such stories than an essay delighting in the power of these tales — and getting at their meaning.
To be sure, many of the tales — and a handful of the insights — will serve me well in my paper. The author left me to get at the meaning of this various imaginary creatures and legends. But, reading the book made me restless and crabby.
Today, I had the opposite experience as I reviewed my underlings in one of the books our professor had assigned us. While I didn’t always agree with the points David Abram made in his The Spell of the Senuous, I delighted in his interesting insights — and how he backed them up with reference to mythology, philosophy, linguistics and/or his experiences among primitive tribes around the world. Returning to this book helped lift my spirits — and made me less anxious about the two papers I must complete this week.
It is amazing how books are like movies, even like people. That their quality can impact the way we feel, maybe even the way we act.