I’ve loved books since before I could read them. I vaguely remember chewing on a cloth book my mother or aunt gave me, but it may only be a family story. I do know I read early, and with gusto. ANYTHING: cereal boxes, manuals, maps, kids books, the paper, comics, and whatever else had letters on it.
Later, I’d end up an English major — where do most readers fetch up? So, this is a life-long reader’s ode to her most recent love affair with a book.
Because last night, I read one of those books you know will stay with you. Maybe it won’t be everyone’s big book — it’s not Tolkien or Tolstoi. But it a little like the books I read as a child — those books you inhaled, staying up into the late late night to finish.
I checked it out of the library yesterday afternoon, and was done with the 300+ pages by late evening. It was that necessary to read every word.
I’m not going to say what book it was — that’s not the point. It could be any of at least 50 books I’ve read through my life: Little Women, as a child. Later, The Last Unicorn. And of course Moby Dick, and a book of poetry by Ishmael Reed. Another by Mark Doty. M.F.K. Fisher’s Art of Eating. May Sarton and Carolyn Heilbrun, Mary Oliver and Mary Rose O’Reilley. Jack Kornfeld. Howard Gardiner and Richard Rodriguez and so many others. Books that transformed me, changed as surely as if I had them tattooed onto my skin.
This is just one of many many bookshelves through our house, crammed with mysteries, sci fi, theory, science, how-to, gardening, war lit, poetry, art, esoterica, religion and spiritual thought, cookbooks… Almost any kind of book you can imagine.
Because here’s the point: books are FOOD. Food for heart and mind and growth and the broadening of all our horizons. It’s why people fear them, why writers are still killed in some countries. Why various volumes have been banned over the centuries.
Sometimes, when I am teaching, I remind people that the first of Hitler’s victims were not the Jews. They were the artists, the teachers, the intellectuals. Because within those minds were books. And books are as dangerous as any weapon, if not as immediately fatal.
Go find a book. Be ready to change.