An Ode to Books by Gary S. Smolker


When someone reads something (a book, a news report, an email, a letter, etc. etc.)  at the right time in life it can have a profound impact.

When someone learns about something – either through reading a book, publicity, watching a movie. looking/listening to a news report or looking at something someone sent over the Internet or otherwise) it can have a profound effect.

Reading a book and/or a newspaper or the post on a blog or an email or seeing an image on a screen (i.e., on your smart phone or on your computer or your TV screen ) can change your life and the “life” of other people, the life of Polar Bears, the life of “products”, “places”, rivers, forests, mountains, beaches, cities, countries, historical sites, museums, art objects, famous places, famous buildings, politicians, political candidates, celebrities, etc.

The fact that we can now transmit information (text and pictures) anywhere at any time via smart phones is the biggest most impactful technological advance in human history.

The smart phone has had more impact on mankind then the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press, the invention of the steam engine or the impact of any other invention in human history.

Before the invention and widespread use of the smart phone it took relatively speaking “forever” for information to be transmitted long distances to anyone compared to how long it takes to transmit that information to someone else today.

For example, it took a long time for the general public to know of the existence of the Mona Lisa. 

The theft of the Mona Lisa from the most important museum in Paris was of great interest to the public.

What launched the Mona Lisa to worldwide fame was it becoming front page news after it was stolen.

The theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre created an international uproar over its theft in 1911 – pictures of the actual painting were published in the largest circulation newspapers in Paris as well as in leading newspapers all over the world.

This was followed by constant reporting on the investigation of the theft and on the worldwide search for the stolen painting.

People lined up in front of the now blank wall in the Louvre on which it had hung before it was stolen to look at where it had been.

The Mona Lisa had hitherto been known only to the most cultured of audiences, mostly for its prestigious backstory of swapping from one royal collection to another.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa did not inspire crowds to line up in front of the Louvre until after it was stolen in 1911.

Today, thanks to modern communications, and marketing, it is one of the most popular and famous paintings in the world.

It is universally recognized and even worshiped as an object of pilgrimage and long lines at museums.

Reading, Seeing and Thinking Changes Your Brain

You don’t just learn things by reading and/or by seeing life changing images.

Your brain actually grows and becomes better able to process and use information.

  • You also become more well-rounded, more refined, more thoughtful, more knowledgeable and more skeptical.
  • You acquire new knowledge, new information, new things to admire and love, as well as new things to be horrified about, new things to doubt and new things to be skeptical about.
  • You acquire a deeper understanding of all aspects of your own life and the life of other people.
  • As you become better “educated” your ability to understand other people’s feelings and motivations increases and you become better able to understand what another person is feeling and thinking.


There is a a clear continuity between word, thought, thinking, comprehending, hearing and listening.

They are each part of the long history of steps enabling man to better communicate, to better express himself, to more fully comprehend what he sees hears tastes and smells, and to become more articulate more persuasive and more able to influence, persuade, lead and control other people.

Its a testament to the extraordinary world we live in that the smart phone, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Google, Uber and the Internet have penetrated deeply into our lives and redefined both how we communicate and how we live.

As a result of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Uber and the spread of use of the Internet there has been more change in the last five years than in the previous 55.  For example, if you Google the word health you will instantly see about 2 billion results.  If you call Uber you will quickly get a “low cost ride.”


  • During the past five years the value of communications has dramatically gone up, the cost of communication has dramatically gone down and the number of communications (i.e., Google the word health) has exploded.
  • As the cost of obtaining information continues to decline sharply and the cost of communicating information continues to decline, more and more of us are being given a glimpse of the ideas, forces, and trends that are now shaping our future.
  • However, in many cases, information we randomly access on the Internet has not been edited or peer reviewed by unbiased experts.
  • Sometimes reading such material can be as useful as reading unsolicited (junk) mail.
  • We should ask ourselves: How valuable, how reliable is the information we are receiving, is the “information” that we have obtained beneficial?

It is no accident that the demand for instant information has gone up dramatically as the price of obtaining that information has gone down.

That is why you can get about 2 billion results if you Google the word health and why you can shop for almost anything on line.

We are all swimming in an ocean of information.

Those of us who own a smart phone have become an integral part of a multitude of interconnected systems of information.

We are now suffering from electronically transmitted information overload.

Most of us have at least 50 unread emails in our computers or on our smart phones at all times.

Some of us have over 100 unread emails on our computers and smart phones.


I recently downsized by moving from a house I was living in (a 4,000 plus square foot two-story four bedroom three bath single family home with beautifully landscaped front and backyards in a prosperous section of Los Angeles) with an ornate designer swimming pool to a 1,100 square foot two bedroom two bath one story condo without a swimming pool in what has been called the armpit of the San Fernando Valley.


I spent the months of February, March, April and May, 2015 looking for a new place to live.

Every aspect of looking for a new place to live was a traumatic experience, including looking at places offered for rent and looking at places offered for sale which were posted on the Internet.

One of the issues I had to resolve  during my search for a new place to live was the human need issue in my life of how important to me are my books.

All the places I looked at, except one, did not have enough room or the right kind of room for my bookcases and/or for my books or the right floor plan or the right ambiance/”feeling.”

My love of reading had created in me a need to find a house where I could have all the books in my home library at my fingertips.

When I finally saw a place for rent that had enough room for my books as well as an agreeable floor plan that would allow me to feel comfortable bringing my books and bookcases there, I immediately knew that it was the place for me.

Coincidentally, after I moved in, I discovered this place has beautiful views from eight of it’s ten windows and that it has three balconies.

I didn’t notice the windows or balconies when I first personally inspected place where I now live with my real estate agent because I was blown away by what happened on my one and only viewing before I made an offer to rent this place.


My real estate broker fired me while he and I were looking at this place because he couldn’t stomach the fact that I told the owner I loved this place while the owner was showing this place to me and to my real estate broker.

The minute I told the owner I love this place, my real estate broker immediately went outside while I was still telling the owner how much I loved this place.  As he left, my real estate broker told me to come to his car when I was done talking to the owner.


I surrendered to the inexplicable power of needing to find a home for my books without counting the cost.

Why did I do that?

Rabbi Jechezkel Landau, the eighteen century Chief Rabbi of Prague, said “G-d performs miracles to make a statement.”

If that is the case, I believe G-d made it take me four months for me to find the place where I now live to compel/provoke/stimulate me to write the “Ode to Books” below, to present my feelings to you about how important I feel books through which we exchange and transmit ideas and information are to everyone in this computerized information age.


How odd it must be to go through life believing that a book is a book. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some are to be chewed and digested in full or in part. Books inspire a man to embrace the world or to flee it. The literary man can never have enough books. The eyes of a reader are eyes, that do not just take words in, but confront and challenge their worthiness. For me, books are not just words on a page.

The pages of a book can influence me and you in ways we never comprehend.

Reading can change you and me; they can make us do things without realizing it.

Books bring things, ideas and people to life and open our eyes.

What we read can be more real to us than events in our own lifes.

When reading I sense that the various words on the page are fighting for control,
for control of me.

Now, I never read a page without sensing that various people and forces are fighting for control of the words, for control of me.


It is interesting to me to note what I remember and what I soon forget, what I see and/or hear and what I comprehended.


All the thoughts about books expressed in the ode above are discussed in “The Last Bookaneer”, a recently published book, written by Matthew Pearl.

In “The Last Bookaneer”, Matthew Pearl has one of his fictional characters say, “A man’s library opens up his character to the world.”  A man’s books disclose what is (and/or has been) of importance to him.

QUERY:  How many people do you know who have a copy of the Compact Edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language in their home?  I do because I “love” words and what to know what they really “mean.”


Without My Books I Would Be A Body

Deprived of Its Soul

I have spent the last three weeks arranging and rearranging all the books in my new home on bookshelves.

Each of my books represents a topic or subject I was interested in at the time I purchased it and at the time I read it.

Some times it has taken me ten or twenty years to get around to reading one of my books.

I don’t just read books; I write in them; I underline words and phrases and ideas in them; I highlight things of interest to me in them; I use a multitude of colors for underlining and for highlighting.

I tag pages with different colored and different sized tags.

I take (copy) statements that interest me that I have read in a book and put those statements in notebooks.

I use those statements when I talk to people, when I write to people, and when I think about things.

I have many such notebooks.

Those statements (ideas, thoughts, theories, arguments, bits of information) have become part of me.


During the process of moving out of my four thousand plus square foot home and looking for a new place to live, I lived in a hotel for a little over a month.

During the month I was living in that hotel, people urged me to quit looking for a new place to live and to “just rent someplace.”

They didn’t/don’t understand how important my books are to me.

Those people did not understand that books are a part of me.

Figuratively speaking, I am part book, part man.


To have what you have written read by the right people – to modern writers – is positively utopia.

To have a film seen and understood is positively utopia to a filmmaker.

Today, for some people, films have replaced reading books and for other people watching films has stimulated their curiosity which in turn has increased the amount of reading and writing they do.

It is basic human nature that to love to be understood and appreciated.  That is utopia.


For example, I read an article on miracles (why G-d creates miracles) written by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow and sent him an email after reading that article in which I complimented Rabbi Gurkow.

Rabbi Gurkow wrote back: “Wow.  Thank you for that.  A true compliment inspires greater effort and deeper power.”

Copy of email exchange below:

“Wow. Thank you for that. A true compliment inspires greater effort and deeper powers.”
R Lazer

On 2015-06-28 7:52 AM, “Gary Smoker” <> wrote:  In my post I made reference to your reference and “thought” about miracles which I thought was a wonderful statement.

You write fascinating articles.
As a writer you build suspense and then present one surprise twist and turn that open and then further opens people’s minds.
As a Rabbi you fulfill the vision that a Rabbi is a spokesman for G-d.
Of course, G-d isn’t boring and neither are you.
I mimic what you write because
you are a fascinating and exciting teacher.
Prometheus brought mankind fire.  
You bring mankind light by answering the question, WHY?

Sent from my iPhone

Gary S. Smolker
On Jun 27, 2015, at 7:57 PM, Rabbi Lazer Gurkow wrote:
I am flattered.

Thanks for reading my work.

R Lazer

On Sat, Jun 27, 2015 at 4:47 PM, Gary Smolker <> wrote:Rabbi,Thank you for contributing to my “Ode to Books” which was posted on my blog a few minutes ago. Gary


Books are a part of me.

I would no more “voluntarily” live where I would not have my favorite books at my fingertips than I would voluntarily cut off one of my arms or voluntarily shrink out of existence.

If it is true that you become what you love, shocking as it sounds to me, I am part book and part man.

We have recently learned that almost half of the world’s population has access to the Internet: 3.2 billion people.

In the year 2000, this figure was somewhere around 400 million.

Try to imagine what would have happened in the past 15 years if technologically speaking we were still where we were in the year 2000.  That would be a world without Google, without Facebook, without YouTube, without Instagram, without Netflix, without Uber.

I agree with Alvin Toffler’s statement, “In the future illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” but would modify it as follows,” In the future illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who do not use smart phones, computerized research and read books and those who do.”

As access to information and learning become more and more widespread information and learning becomes more relevant each day.

  • In such a world, information needs to be read seen and listened to attentively, needs to be discussed thoroughly, needs to be studied carefully and needs to be evaluated critically.
  • For those purposes books are more relevant today then ever before.

Each information processing and information transmission revolution that has taken place since the 1995 introduction of the graphics user interface Web browser for the Internet has made the truths and facts found only in books more important and more relevant.

Copyright © 2015 Gary S. Smolker

About Gary S. Smolker

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY: No enterprise can exist for itself alone. Every successful enterprise ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others. Otherwise, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist. Imagination, open mindedness and flexibility are the most important factors in unlocking potential. Those who embrace innovation, improvisation, continuous learning, time management, are action oriented, high energy, passionate, creative, purposeful and intense individuals are best equipped to succeed. We all have ideas and the ability to make progress by sharing information and our ideas and also by changing our ideas when appropriate. We should always be on the lookout for teaching and mentoring moments. We hold time like water in our hands; however tightly we clench our fingers, it drips away. But, if it falls on a seed, a seed may grow to become something that will have a positive social impact. PERSONAL INTERESTS: I have a passion to learn, to innovate, to lead, to mentor and to teach. I seek to write things worth reading and want to do things worth writing about. I enjoy (a) driving a fast car, (b) having intense conversations (c) teaching/mentoring, (d) reading and (e) being involved in productive activity. PERSONAL: I believe in cultivating and backing passionate people, innovation, and old fashioned good ideas. I love making human connections and spreading good ideas. I am strongly motivated to achieve in situations in which independence of thought and action are called for. PERSONAL GOALS: I want to live life vibrantly, to be as sharp as a tack until my last breath and to change the world by being me. My personal goal is to be fully engaged in life, to lead by example, to set high standards and to continue to amass firsthand experience and knowledge in all that interests me. PERSONALITY: I love fun and mischief. I relish absurdity. I have an irreverent, facetious and satiric disposition. I dread boredom. I have spent a lifetime reading. I have no bias against people who have lived successful and/or complicated lives. I write to release tension, to get things off my chest. SOCIAL MEDIA: I post articles on the "Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange" blog at, and "Dude's Guide to Women's Shoes" at I also post images and comments on Instagram @garyspassion. CONTACT INFORMATION: Gary Smolker, Smolker Law Firm, 16055 Ventura Blvd., Ste 525, Encino, California, 91436-2609, USA. Phone 1-818-788-7290, e-mail

Posted on June 27, 2015, in books, computerized research, films, literacy and illiteracy, redefining literacy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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