My first memory of reading is a tender one. As a vivacious four year old, my great grandmother had somehow coerced me into sitting on her lap. Once I’d finished squirming, she pulled out a small, purple, hardbound book. I don’t remember the exact title, but it was a spooky tale about the Berenstein Bears. My mother had been teaching me the basics of phonetics and reading, and now my great grandmother slowly traced her fingers over the big, clunky letters of this children’s book as she helped me sound out the words. It was a magical experience, at the same time both frozen and alive in my memory.

Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated with books. They look neat on your shelf, older ones have that great musky smell to them, there’s an organic feel to the pages, and the best books create a powerful bond with their reader. Once I learned to read, it seems like I was always reading. I distinctly remember getting in trouble more than once because I was reading when I should have been doing chores or homework. We didn’t watch lots of TV growing up, and video games weren’t a part of our family routine, so when I had free time I usually spent it browsing through the family library.

Reading was magical, but I enjoyed reading mostly for learning. I did read fiction and some fantasy, but spent most of my time reading nonfiction or the classics. When I was in fifth grade I read a book about Jason and the Argonauts—my first introduction to the ancient world. In seventh grade I read the Odyssey—an unabridged, un-adapted version no less! In eighth grade I read a book called Bloodname, whose main character I admired so much that I named my first child after him. In ninth grade I spent most of my summer working through Alex Haley’s Roots, a book that significantly changed my outlook and understanding. 

Reading often and reading good literature brings so much richness and vitality. Here are some quotes by greater men than I about books and reading.

"I have never known any distress that an hour's reading did not relieve." -Montesquieu

"A home without books is like a body without soul." -Cicero

"Don't just read the easy stuff. You may be entertained by it, but you will never grow from it." -Jim Rohn

"If you have a garden and library, you have everything you need." -Cicero

"Good literature forces us to ask questions whose answers leave us insecure in our own ignorance." -Me

"Every rereading of a classic is as much a voyage of discovery as the first reading." -Italo Calvino

My great-grandfather barely finished high school, but he valued learning and literature. When he died he left me his 50 volume collection of the "Harvard Classics".

The Loeb Classical Library is another great set of books that I've been collecting since college.

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