The people who ask me what they should read are often the most cat-killing curious of customers, the men and women (and sometimes children) that want, simply put, to be entertained by something new. To this question I respond: “Well, what do you like?” It’s true that everyone has their favorite authors, just as everyone has their literary enemies. Working in a new and used bookstore, where the smell of ancient bindings is always waiting for a covert sniff, I field a lot of ambiguous questions; and you know what? I love it. Words are my food, and I hope others will join in on the feast.
Books can be harsh and silly, they can heal you and hurt you and echo in your mind like cannon-fire. They are redemptive and fun, and can swim raucously around in your intestines like greasy food. Time-tested literature is worth, to me, more than I can express in such a short space. Reading has changed me in the most significant way, as it has given a gift: the realization that I want to be a writer. No longer do I feel the conflict of your average mid-twenties male, puppy-lost in his career search. Now I have a purpose.
I think everyone should read something for pleasure, and it saddens me that there are individuals who do not. How beautiful is this thing called language, the only connection between the author’s vision and the reader’s imagining? As a novelist friend once told me, stories save lives. Books are so much more than just what you hold in your hand. Books are what you hold inside.
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