On Literature In Youth

I have been passionate about reading since even before I could read. Each evening my dad would open up Treasure Island and let the words flow out. I can scarcely remember an age at which I couldn’t be found up all hours of the night in my bedroom, hiding a book under the covers, straining to make out the words in the darkness. From paper A-Z puppets in kindergarten on, my life has been intimately intertwined with the expansive universes of literature. Reading makes me feel a part of the infinite worlds of imagination and reality, compelling me to live up to my fantasies and embody my aspirations.

Books have impacted my life in extreme and eclectic ways. My childhood devotion to nighttime reading earned me 20/200 vision in my left eye, a battle scar that required a sizable Band-Aid: bifocals. I employed my new cast as a weapon to bolster my nocturnal endeavors further. Sometimes I sifted through the encyclopedia, absorbing all the information I could. Books of miscellaneous information were my favorite, informing me of such historical landmarks as the invention of Melba toast and the deaths of the kings of Burma. At the very least they’ve provided me with an unending supply of conversation starters.

I have always had a weakness for fantasy. When I was a kid and couldn’t bear the screaming and fighting downstairs, I’d slip away to my bedroom, open up a book and disappear into the world of Ender’s Game or The Lord of the Rings. It gave me solace, a place to hide. When everything else was uncontrollable, books stayed the same. Through all my travels and experiences, I’ve had a book by my side. When I went to performing arts camp, Don Quixote followed in stride. Bluebeard accompanied me to Cape Cod. Through my trip to Romania Nelson Mandela smiled at me from the cover of Long Walk to Freedom.

Recently, while searching for Purgatorio to reread, I took a look at my collection. All of my favorites are worn, scribbled in, and some even torn. My copy of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole is held together by duct tape. They’re a bit ragtag, but it got me thinking. An unopened book is useless. I would rather have three books rendered nearly illegible by wear, pages yellowed, spines cracked, than possess the limitless tomes of Alexandria, Congress, and the Forum, all pristine in condition, out on display, never to be opened. A book’s pages are essentially blank until they are read. You must take a book, use it, and make it your own; you must cast it in the shape of your experiences and find its niche within you. From there it expands, opening you up to new universes never before imagined. That is the true magic of reading. My books have taught me to lead a dog-eared life, and that lesson will continue to challenge and guide me through each new page and chapter.

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