I believe in books.
I believe that more than anything else in my life, the books I have read have helped me to determine how I see myself, my family, my friends, God, strangers, governments, businesses, media, history…in short, they have helped me form my world view.
I recently started a list where I am attempting to write down every book I’ve ever read. This has been challenging and fun. I started by printing, The Modern Library’s List of 100 Best Novels. I checked off each book I had read, and entered them into my spreadsheet. What surprised me was how many books on the list I had not read! I like to think of myself as a reader of the “Classics”, so I am a little disappointed in myself.
I soon got obsessed with this project. I felt a need to make the list and it ceased to be fun, it was now necessary. I dug deep into my memory and drove myself crazy trying to remember book titles, plots, characters. I did little else for two days. I realized why I got obsessed, because this list is a part of me, it’s a way to describe who I am, much like my physical attributes. I have green eyes, dark brown hair, and I have read both unabridged versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey. I believe that each time you read a book, you are changed, for better or worse, and your world gets a little bigger. I think of this list as a map of my life, a journey of sorts, into my psyche.
As of this date, I am up to 190 books. I am 35 years old. I have so many more books that I want to read.
My love of books came from my mom. She pushed books on me as a little girl, and I am grateful to her for this gift. She was an avid reader so it was natural that I should also read. I can identify the moment when I started to care about novels. It was the summer before I started sixth grade, she told me to read, The Old Man and the Sea, by Hemmingway. I loved his words, his sentences were alive. The way he described things created perfect pictures in my head. I felt the rope burning my hand as the Old Man pulled and pulled in the Marlin. I could taste salt on my lips. When I finished the book, I sobbed. From this moment, I was hooked. The next books from mom were, The Diary of Anne Frank, Gone with the Wind, and many more. She had given me a way out of the small town in which we lived.
Today, I believe we are not passing on this love of books to our children and that our whole society is hurting because of it. There is something magical and important about losing yourself in a novel. How else do we learn about our collective humanness? How else can we teach our children to think critically? How else can we learn from the past? Without books, I believe I would not like myself today. Books have taught me right from wrong, at times they’ve been my friend, and above all, books have left me with questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? And these questions will lead me for the rest of my life.
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