The Mark Blog

Reading Like a Child

Like many book lovers, my parents read to me from an early age. I’d beg to read the same books again and again and then—like I’d read about kids in books doing—I’d sneak under the covers to read. During the summer, there were reading competitions at our local library. At five books, you received a pin. At twenty, you earned a gift certificate for the local ice cream shop, where your Polaroid would be taken and tacked onto the wall. At a hundred books, you won a free ferry ride to San Francisco. Along the way—and while enjoying my prizes—the program taught me about embarking and falling into new worlds, one book at a time. It also taught me, through exposure, that there is no formula for a good book; at least, there is no formula for what makes a book enjoyable to me.

In middle school, as punishment, a close friend’s mother would assign her book reports. I was envious and, also, prohibited from helping.

In college and then graduate school, I gained exposure to worlds of books I hadn’t known existed.  I discovered vast collections of short stories and literary journals, books that’d received nominations for prizes. I will always feel like I’m behind on reading, like I should have read more, that I can’t believe I haven’t read X—and, while I wish and want to read it all, I’m also grateful that the world of quality literature is so vast.

As an adult, it’s easy for me to fill precious time with things other than reading. Like everybody, I can think of a million and one things that need to be taken care of. But I never, ever regret setting aside time for reading. It has always been and, I believe, always will be an activity of love. Certainly, reading is good for my writing and, even more, it is enlivening for my soul. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

So, here’s to more designated reading time. To my fellow book lovers, I ask: Any recommendations? 

A Few Great Authors on the Merits of Reading

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges

“We read to know that we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” — Sherman Alexie

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” — Ernest Hemingway

“Be awesome! Be a book nut!” — Dr. Seuss