I can’t imagine my life without books, without reading, without the joy and beauty of words as they unfold on a page. While I saw my mother obtain great pleasure from her daily reading of such authors as Danielle Steel and Rona Jaffe, my lifelong, best friend Lori was most influential in cultivating my joy of reading. When Lori and I were together, which was often, she was never without a book. I sensed even at a young age that words provided her solace and true enjoyment beyond just playing with others. Lori was reading Ayn Rand long before I knew of this author’s writing. It is because of Lori that I am an avid reader and I am forever grateful to her for this gift, for she exposed me to a variety of writers and thinkers. We would exchange books, of which she had an endless supply. When I went over her house, I learned that there could be a room set aside just for books—a home library. I was enthralled by the countless volumes that filled the numerous shelves. The mosaic table in the center of the library held an open book that was often designated by Lori’s father as an important read for his three daughters.
Books have impacted my life so much that it is no surprise that I chose teaching composition and literature as my profession. Now that I am retired, I have the luxury of joyfully devouring the pile of books that have been patiently waiting for me. I recently completed Will Schwalbe’s, Books for Living, in which he recounts some of the books that have impacted his life. Schwalbe also mentioned his “book” nightmare. He was boarding a long flight to Australia only to realize that he had forgotten to pack a book in his carry-on. In his unbearable dream, he literally left the line of passengers walking on to the plane and ran through the terminal trying to find a bookstore. I completely related to his perceived traumatic event. On a recent flight to Mexico, I realized my Kindle’s battery was on life support. The thought of being unable charge the device on the plane and thus having nothing to read but the airline magazine prompted me to search for a bookstore. I found a small paperback romance novel; while not my chosen genre, it served its purpose as my insurance policy against a blank Kindle screen and hours in the air with no book.
Every year, my dear friend Denise and I give each other the same birthday gift: a gift card to a bookstore. We not only love reading our newly selected books, but we treasure the physical act of walking around the stacks of books throughout the store, searching for that one great read, the best of the best. It is this very activity that we joyfully give each other every year.
Like Schwalbe, who recounts impactful readings, I also reflect on those that have added so much to my life. In no particular order, the following are just a few of the books that have impacted my life: A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros; Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi; The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron; Lovingkindness by Anne Roiphe; Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz; and Emma by Jane Austen.
Such books are like friends, all enriching my life in some way, leaving me better off than before I opened their covers. Reading adds a dimension to my life, adding a depth of color to an otherwise 'beige' day. I am grateful for the physical act of reading and for the books that line my shelves.