I have a lot of books. I could so easily have more, but a long time ago I decided a rule for books: if I could easily get a copy of the same book from the library then I could not keep it. If I needed to read it again, I could go to the library.
Book take up so much space, and it is easy to be overwhelmed with their physical reality. The point of books is not the physical size; it is what they open up in my mind.
I just started reading I Am Malala, the book written by the teenage Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for going to school. She says that when she was top of her class (before she was shot) she was considered bookish because she had read 8 or 9 books.
Now that she is in Birmingham, England, she understands that her classmates have read hundreds of books. And that makes school very different.
Finding out new things is different now, too. We can find out new things from words that are not books.
I’ve been learning from the Internet how Abraham Lincoln found books to read. It was pretty common in the American frontier, before there were public libraries, to share books with interested neighbors. That whatever books to be had–WHATEVER books–would be shared and consumed by new readers.
Lincoln, as a young man, read all the nearby books, and then went further afield. He heard of a many-miles-away neighbor who had a lot of books. He found a way to borrow that man’s books. That man was a lawyer, and because of all the books Lincoln got a chance to read, he became a lawyer too. Lincoln had no formal high school education.
He just read.
And he changed America by leading it through a deadly civil war and dismantling a horrible blight of slavery.
Malala describes how she feels her education is far behind girls her age in England. But she is changing the world too. She is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace price acknowledging her courage in facing her oppressors, and standing up for, FIGHTING for girls to have education and freedom.
Reading is really powerful. Any kind of reading.