So as I’m sitting here trying to get started, I remember my grandmother’s house, another place that’s hot no matter the time of year. Whenever my family would plan trips there, my aunt would too. Now, one of the inspiring things about my aunt is that she is an avid (and that word doesn’t even do it justice) reader. Every time we meet, she’s got a book held to her face. She could sit and read in a room overflowing with relatives, fans humming and oscillating, and still listen to the flow of conversation enough to add her two cents from time to time. I can hardly read on the subway or in coffee shops because there’s too much conversation, and the conversation I hear is all Korean. I can’t imagine the uncanny mutant-like ability to multi-task in such a glorious way.
So when she found out that sixth grade me enjoyed reading, the floodgates of literature opened. Every year on my birthday I’d get a gift card for a bookstore. This was great! It was usually enough to get two paperbacks, which allowed me to burn through the Michael Crichton novels and the Hardy Boy series. Then, at other times throughout the year, she’d loan me books that she thought I’d enjoy. This little thing that I came to expect from her impacted me greatly. I went on to study literature in college and now have aspirations of being the next Cormac McCarthy (but with more parentheticals, the occasional use of quotes, and less use of the word “and”).
My parents were also there to encourage my reading. They never hesitated to buy me books, and lucky for their wallets I couldn’t consume the volume my aunt could. And now, if I look back on my school years, I can say with confidence that literature was one of the biggest influences in my intellectual development. Sure, there was required reading that I despised, like Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm, but my loathing of them caused me to come up with a reason why. (Though, in non-McCarthyian style, I would like to add that I did not have what one would consider “good” English teachers in much of my high school career. A quick example is that one instructor claimed to be the only person he knows who pronounces the H in what. He then went on to say “Hwat” a few times to prove his point.)
This is getting long and I promised conciseness. I guess all of this is to say, books make a difference. Whether it’s two brothers solving mysteries or father and son traveling down a road after the apocalypse, literature is going to change readers into thinkers. So if you have the opportunity to inspire someone to read, do it. It may not seem like a big deal at the time, but years later, when people age and begin to look back, they’ll remember it and cherish it. And, if you’re lucky, perhaps someday they’ll write about you and post it to the interwebs for everyone to read.