Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was a bookish child. I read in the car, at the dinner table, under the covers with a flashlight. I woke up early to read before school. I wore my eyes out trying to finish a chapter before fading out in the wee hours. My parents encouraged me to read, and did one of the best things I think you can do for a kid - restricted nothing. I read books I had no business reading (and really, books no one has any business reading. Flowers in the Attic, anyone?), books that terrified and enlightened, books that had to be read alongside the dictionary. Books that opened my eyes to worlds I didn't know existed.

I've learned more about religion, culture, history and psychology from popular fiction than I ever learned in school. I've met a more horrible villain (in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian) and a crueler villainess (in W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage) than ever conceived by the scriptwriters of Law & Order. Our politicians could take a page from Thackeray's Becky Sharp on how to do in flagrante delicto with style. Hell, I wouldn't even know what in flagrante delicto was unless I was a reader! It is nothing more than being fairly well read that makes people think I'm smarter than I actually am.

I've read books about things I never even knew existed (like black slave owners in Edward P. Jones' The Known World), and things I'm terribly ignorant about (pretty much everything that was not covered in US and World History during high school. Which is a lot.). I love to read about places that might be (Narnia, Wonderland, the Shire) and places I'll never see. It is an amazing thing to know that knowing something, being somewhere, being someone else - is as simple as sitting down and opening a book.

I started this entry with a list - five books everyone should read. It turned into ten books everyone should read, five books no one should read, five books that changed the way I think about things, one book I'm reading now, five books I have on deck to read, and so on. Instead, I'll close it with a shot of Julia 'reading' the book I'm reading now. This one I would recommend restricting to your young readers. Unless you want them cursing you in two languages.

Go. Read something.

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