Why I Love Books

A little while ago, I was talking about books with my friend and she asked me a difficult question:

What would you say are the three most influential books in your life?


Today, I'll tell you about the first one. I remember it only because of one quote that stuck with me. I don't even remember what he was talking about, but it's the seed of the idea that has been my constant companion, gaining more strength in recent years.

"People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book."

It's from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (which I read for an assignment in 8th grade English).


I've come up with an analogy for what books can do for a person. Imagine a huge circle that contains the breadth and depth of all human experiences, perspectives, and personalities. Somewhere in this circle is you. You were born just a point. A teeny little point. While growing up and finding yourself, your point grew into a circle, still insignificant compared to the larger one, but a circle nonetheless. You probably don't even know how big the circle is.

Your friends whom you've known since you were little have their own circles too, probably close to yours. When you go to college or travel, you meet people who grew up in other parts of the big circle, and if you make the effort, you get to learn about them and how they see the world.

This is what good books can do for you, too. They can be little circles somewhere else in the big circle. Somewhere you haven't been, somewhere your friends haven't been, and sometimes, somewhere you can't even go yourself. What's it like to be a clever young English lady fighting social norms at the turn of the 19th century? Pride and Prejudice. What's it like to live in a world where firefighters burn books and censorship abounds? Fahrenheit 451. What's it like to be an African-American civil rights activist?


I think that understanding these perspectives and being able to map out your own experiences gives you a better sense of who you are and of what in this world is important to you. That's what we're all trying to figure out, isn't it?