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Friday, December 2, 2011

How Reading Changed My Life, written by Anna Quindlen. Ballantine Books, Random House. 1998. $15.00 all ages

"It was still in the equivalent of the club chairs that we found one another: at the counters in bookstores, at the front desks in libraries, at school, where teachers introduced us to one another - and, of course, in books, where book-lovers make up a lively subculture of characters."

As you may have guessed, and I am sure that you feel the same...I love books that talk about the power of reading. I cannot imagine a life without it. Yet, I know that many people live without knowing that power.

I have always read and been awed by Anna Quindlen's writing. Her ability to put words together is enough to convince me that I have no talent for it. Yet, I pore over her essays and her novels, taking from them ideas, influences, and great satisfaction. I get her characters and love to discover the ways they find connections to each other.

In this extended essay she imparts so much wisdom about reading. She tells of her wishes and dreams, and her travel through the books that she reads:

"Yet there was always in me, even when I was very small, the sense that I ought to be somewhere else. And wander I did, although, in my everyday life, I had nowhere to go and no imaginable reason on earth why I should want to leave. The buses took to the interstate without me; the trains sped by. So I wandered the world through books."

I totally relate to that. I have been to New York on so many occasions I cannot keep track of them, I have travelled to Australia, Africa, Victorian England, India, Italy, mention but a few of the places that stories have taken me. I wonder if that is what makes me happy to be at home with no real hankerings for worldwide travel.  And I continue to visit other places on the seven continents through the choices I make for my reading life. Ah, it's bliss!

Anna Quindlen talks about the connections that people make in their reading groups, the reasons that books will be forever with us, and offers gems of importance to me on almost every page. I will lend this book to friends; they will have to deal with all the places that are highlighted. It might change their reading experience as those particular lines may have resonance only with me.

"It still seems infinitely mysterious to me that there are some of us who have built not a life but a self, based largely on our hunger for what are a series of scratches on a piece of paper."

There is so much here to savor. I wish I had written this book. What I can do is keep it beside me on my desk, and know that I can turn to it whenever it pleases me to read it again...and then again. Thank you, Anna Quindlen for saying what I can only dream of saying.

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