How to Get Rich When You Aren’t Even Trying… But Are…Like… Sitting Reading a Book

Oh, I do apologize for the “click-bait” title. Oh course, I did not mean getting rich in the usual sense of the word. Not big piles of money rich, or huge killing on the stock market kind of rich. Not even enormous piles of hoarded, priceless treasure like Bilbo found in Smaug’s cave kind of rich. Although that last kind, being wholly fictional, and referring, of course, to J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic book The Hobbit, is closer to the sort of rich I meant.

The Hobbit. Bilbo in Smaug's cave

No, what I did mean was the sort of “richness” that can permeate your life if you are a lover of books. And how, ever since I first picked up a book, reading has added so much to the quality of life I enjoy. Has, in fact, enriched my life, even if it hasn’t exactly made me any wealthier.

I was thinking about this after a phone call to my mum on Saturday. We chatted about this and that and eventually made our way around to what we were reading, one of our favourite topics of conversation. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that my mum is in her eighties and still lives on her own on the farm down east where I grew up. And you’ll also know that she is a great reader, having inherited that passion from her mum and, thankfully, passed it on to me.  (I wrote a post on our shared love of reading last year. You can read it here if you want.)

Anyway… Mum was in fine form on Saturday. Feeling cheerful, as she had just finished her housework, had made a pot of tea and had five new books to read. Five. “Well,” I enthused, “it doesn’t get much better than that!” And then we proceeded to muse on what the devil people did with their time if they didn’t read. Another favourite topic. And what a gaping, big hole there would be in our lives if we didn’t read.

Just these past two weeks, for instance, I’ve been transported to Scotland, Afganistan, and Italy by these wonderful books.

I just finished reading Denise Mina’s book Gods and Beasts, set in gritty, modern Glasgow. Mina is one of my favourite Scottish crime writers. I read and loved Khaled Hosseini’s second book,  A Thousand Splendid Suns, a short time ago for one of my book clubs. It’s a very moving story, although perhaps not as brilliant as his third book, And the Mountains Echoed. In both books, Hosseini makes wartime Afghanistan come alive for the reader. And this week, I’m discovering how much I like Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti mysteries that are set in Venice. (Thanks Mater for the suggestion.) I particularly love Leon’s vivid setting detail, and all the descriptions of food and wine and coffee. Lots of coffee. Reading that book reminds me of when I was little and Mum read Heidi to me at bedtime. Sometimes Spry’s descriptions of the sweet goat’s milk and the cheese bubbling on bread toasted over the Grandfather’s fire meant that Mum and I both decamped to the kitchen for a snack.
And not too long ago I finished this Penelope Lively book.

Lively definitely writes what I call value added books. I’ve learned about history and anthropology and, well, life from Penelope Lively. By reading books like Moon Tiger, and Spider Web, and Consequences. In fact it was a quote from Consequences about the impact of books and reading that started me musing on this whole “value of reading” thing a year ago.

How It All Began opens with the mugging of retired school teacher Charlotte Rainsford and follows the effect this random event has on the lives of seven people. As Michiko Kakutani says in her review in The New York Times, Lively looks at “the ways the past molds the present, the role that chance plays in people’s lives; the haphazard might-have-beens that follow an impulsive choice made long ago.” I adore it when a book does this, looks at how, and even why, life turns out the way it does.

This is Penelope Lively and her husband and four of their grandchildren in 1995. Lovely shot, isn’t it?

Penelope Lively, her husband and 4 grandchildren. 1995.

Lively’s books are so wise. They’ve truly enriched my understanding of life and of human nature. And her reflections about life and old age and “twenty-first century widowhood” in her 2013 article in The Telegraph, make me want to pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and ask her all kinds of advice. Click here to read the article. Really, you should.

Which brings me to this little gem. Thanks to reader Susan T who, following my Barbara Pym post, suggested that I might like E.M. Delafield, I ordered The Diary of a Provincial Lady from our library. And after I picked it up a few days later, I made myself a pot of tea ( I drink entirely too much tea) and curled up on the sofa in the sun room with the book. And I was transported to 1930’s upper class England, drafty old houses, domestic disasters, bank overdrafts, even litters of contraband kittens in the cupboard. I was lost… for hours. Let’s just say that it’s lucky that there were no children or helpless animals that needed to be fed or cared for… and that Hubby is well able to make dinner for both of us. Otherwise there might have been a real life domestic disaster right here on the Rideau.

I loved this book. It’s gentle and filled with humour, and at times I laughed out loud. The obnoxious wealthy neighbour Lady B, the loquacious Vicar’s wife, old Mrs. Blenkinshop swathed in her shawls and dispensing advice…so many delightful characters. And the diary style, clipped and complete with abbreviations, is perfect. I wondered throughout if Helen Fielding had read Diary of a Provincial Lady before she wrote Bridget Jones. Hmmm.
When I finished the book, I promptly ordered the only other E.M. Delafield that our library has. note: Am now on quest to acquire all E.M. Delafield books. As Penguin Classics are said to be reissuing, am reasonably confident of success.
But, you know, I think I need a bit of a break before I read the next one. The style is pretty infectious and Hubby said I was starting to talk funny.

That’s E.M. Delafield below, looking very Barbara Pym-ish if you ask me.

E. M. Delafield author of Diary of a Provincial Lady

Yep. Books have enriched my life. They entertain me, they teach me all kinds of stuff I wouldn’t learn anywhere else. They sustain me through times of stress and turmoil. Sometimes if they’re particularly moving, they cause the turmoil, but nevermind. They have given me tons of topics to write about in blog posts, which in turn have engendered lovely, interesting comments from readers. Often with great suggestions for other books to read and then to write about… and on it goes. I can’t imagine a life without books and reading. Why that would be like Smaug without his treasure. Too sad.

I’m so glad that I inherited that reading gene. My inherited wealth. Thanks Mum.

What about you? Has reading made you “richer?”


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17 thoughts on “How to Get Rich When You Aren’t Even Trying… But Are…Like… Sitting Reading a Book”

  1. your post today was right in my wheelhouse for several reasons: many a time i have looked at a pile of books waiting to be read and had the thought, "what riches!" so i know exactly what you mean. thanks also for the wonderful link to the article by penelope lively. i am a recent widow myself and her wise and insightful words were a true inspiration. i will immediately go to and see what i can download of lively's novels.

    i am so glad you enjoyed THE PROVINCIAL LADY. when i read the books i felt she and i could be sisters, despite the fact that the books were written in the 30's and 40's.

  2. I thank my mother as well for my love of reading. Not sure how she managed it with such a large family, but every one of my many siblings is also a keen reader. And I'm so fortunate that I married a reader! I'm not sure what a Mixed Marriage would be like, but it's good to have a partner who understands the constant disappearing acts as I wander into the new worlds contained within a book's pages.
    So glad you're enjoying Donna Leon. I always find it such a treat to discover a whole new mystery series.
    Currently reading Michael Faber's Book of Strange New Things, speculative fiction, not usually my thing, but I bought it for husband at Christmas and he recommended, so . . And it's very good. En-Riching, to echo your title…

  3. How lovely to read a post that mentions so many familiar books and a few new ones to look out for (Denise Mina and E.M. Delafield now added to my list). I can't imagine life without reading and the pleasure it brings. I do envy you having so many Donna Leon books still to read.I recently spent a few happy hours back in Venice catching up with Brunetti and his colleagues in the latest book. At least a year before there's another one assuming D L doesn't run out of energy and ideas. Despite initial reservations I enjoyed Ruth Galloway series (discovered via your blog) and managed to track down all books to date including Ghost Fields – very addictive easy reading. Also liked Elly Griffiths' The Zig Zag Girl. Currently reading and enjoying Anne Tyler's latest. Love her writing. Interested that Mater mentioned Michael Faber's book. I received it as a gift a while ago but have been putting off reading it as didn't seem my thing. Friend has asked several times how I enjoyed it so it's a bit like having an assignment hanging over me and can't avoid for much longer. Good to see positive comment about it. So many books, so little time… Iris

    1. I love Anne Tyler too. Haven't read her in a few years though, not sure why. She's the master of the quirky family sagas. I have three books on my shelf pressed on me by a well-meaning friend. Maybe I should let enough time go by and then return them saying I read them so long ago I can't remember anything? The guilt, the guilt.

  4. Thanks for all these recommendations! I love to read, although I'm still working full time, I can get through a book in a few days, a week at most. I am delighted to read your recommendations and will look to add them to my list, thanks so much!

    1. Ah… working can indeed take up a lot of time that could otherwise be spent reading. It's funny though…but when I was still working I valued my reading time more because there was so little of it. Now I tend to take it for granted. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I, too, inherited the literary gene from my mom, who got it from her aunt…have lovely memories of them swapping books and synopses over cups of coffee and homemade goodies. They lived eight hours apart so they would save up novels to lend each other and then return the loans in big batches on the next trip. Started me off borrowing from my own mom now that we live 1,000+ miles apart.
    2 of the last 3 books I got from the library (and after living here for 5 1/2 years this finally inspired me to get my library card as I'd been a grad student reading WAY too much academic stuff for 4 of those years) were books you recommended–In Pursuit of Love/Love in a Cold Climate and Anil's Ghost. Mitford was a riot and had some great musings about human nature–I particularly loved Fanny's take on the love trio at the end of Love in a Cold Climate. Just started Anil's Ghost but love Michael Ondaatje (had the good fortune to hear him speak once) and am already seduced by his evocative descriptions of a new-to-me country. Thank you!!
    My third book from the library is an M. L. Longworth mystery–maybe you've read her? She's an expat living in Aix-en-Provence and writes murder mysteries featuring an investigative judge and a law prof who used to be lovers and descriptions of cuisine and wine like those above–worthy of a food critic. I lived in Aix for a year so it's an especial treat for me but I think her character development will make it enjoyable for anybody–in fact that stood out more to me than the murder mystery, which definitely didn't disappoint.
    A long comment but mostly–thanks for lighting the reading fire again! As a mom of a 1 yr old I needed the encouragement to make time for such a delightful pursuit.

    1. I'm so glad you liked both the Nancy Mitford and Michael Ondaatje. Both are very special books…. for very different reasons. Thanks for the recommendation! M.L. Longworth is entirely new to me. But I will definitely look for her books at the library. Especially as we are travelling to France in few days, and spending some time in Provence. I love finding a new author, finding out that I like them and then seeing that they've written lots of books. I'm rubbing my hands together in anticipation here. Thanks for stopping by, Leah. Long comments are most gratefully received and savored with my morning tea!

    2. If you get to Aix, I think some of the dining establishments she mentions are real and current…Bon appetit et Bon voyage!

  6. Reading is a huge "activity" in our house….but , I have to admit, most of my time recently is taken up with the computer! The blog is endless and so is all associated with it. I spend hours reading other blogs, on Pinterest and Instagram etc etc. and I've known for a long time that it has replaced reading. Sad, isn't it? Well, things change in this life, and they will change again. My part time work also involves a lot of computer/screen time so added up it means less time with the written page. Maybe that's one reason I love travel: so many uninterrupted hours of reading. And, I am quite divided as to whether an actual book or Kindle. Both have their place. While I much prefer turning pages and being able to go back and forth, the Kindle is so wonderful for travel. But thanks for your suggestions here: I generally put things on my Amazon "wish list" and then go back in a few weeks and order!

    1. I hear you Libby. I log way too many computer hours. I really have to get myself organized and try to do Twitter and Instagram once a day…no excuses. But when??? That's the trouble. Thanks for reading….sorry to take you away from your book…but glad you stopped by:)

  7. I do like your book posts . I've met people who have been rather sneery about fiction books but you can learn a great deal about human nature & coping with the problems of life from good fiction , not to mention how to recognise a psychopath! I well remember the thrill of seeing my young nephews & nieces read their first few words – 'That's it ' I said ' You are on your way ' Penelope L is one of my favorites & Denise M but I do love a good biography & the Mitfords are always great value . Real books are best but the kindle is handy here on my Scottish holiday
    Wendy in York

    1. Thanks Wendy. I'm about to attempt to download my first e-book to my i-pad mini for our trip to France. Desperation, really….since we can't take enough books with us. Hope you are having a great Scottish holiday. We hope to return to Scotland one day…we loved it there. Well, except for the black pudding.

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