Reading Is a Life Force

Jennifer - Springfield, Missouri
Entered on February 15, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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A good book is a tonic, an awakening from my everyday existence. A good book is also a drug, pulling me deeper and deeper into its depths, until I will neglect daily duties like laundry cooking, and picking up toys. I believe in reading.

I read all kinds of books, and have been educated in the classics. I took a college class that dealt solely with Shakespeare, and another on Faulkner. The play “King Lear” was my favorite, and I wished I had a fool to guide me through life.

I had never worked as hard as I did to read “The Sound and the Fury,” but once it was mine I carried the knowledge of having read it like a secret badge. When reading “Macbeth,” I was able to make the connection between Shakespeare and Faulkner, my two college loves, “Life is… a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.”

As a high school English teacher, books became a way to reach my students. I fell in love all over again with “To Kill a Mockingbird” as my sophomores discovered the intrigue of Boo Radley and the integrity of Atticus Finch. I had avoided “The Scarlet Letter” successfully until I was required to teach it to an honors junior English class. Much to their dismay, I saw the magic in the story and forced them through the tedious language. I helped Holden Caufield become a hero for a new generation of misunderstood teenagers. I showed a group of morose sophomore boys that Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” was a story of blood and guts and honor.

When I am not in the middle of a book, I feel incomplete. I have plenty to fill my days: a husband, three young children, a teaching job, laundry and TiVoed episodes of “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” But I will wander the house at night, when it is time for bed, looking through our cluttered bookshelves and the piles under the bed. I can make do with magazines and newspapers for only a couple of days before I am cruising the library’s website, looking for a dark detective story or a juicy memoir. My husband and friends will try to help, giving me suggestions and loaning out books they have enjoyed. But few understand that the book and I have to find each other. It has to be the right book at the right time, and thankfully I never go too long without making that connection.

Reading is a life force. I will never understand those that never pick up a book, never discover the joy that can be taken wherever you go. I believe in the power of words on the page to transform a life, or simply an otherwise boring wait at Jiffy Lube. Books anchor me to my everyday existence, and also release me from it.