Growing Up With Books

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Yesterday I suggested 5 Books That I’m Reading and I wrote a bit about how my parent’s house was always filled with books. As a child, there never was a shortage of things to read. In the crawl space of their house there was a section of children’s book, piles of National Geographic magazines, and anything else that would interests me.

Before I left home last year, I counted 17 full-sized bookcases worth of text. This was a rough estimate because some books were stacked in the closet, on tables, and in man-build (or should I say Dad-built?) bookcases.

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This surplus of books taught me how to quench my thirst for knowledge as a kid. If we were talking about anatomy in school, I could go home and rest assured that I probably had a book on the subject. If I wanted to know more about acupuncture, I can think of three books off the top of my head that focus just on meridians. When I craved to learn, I found that there were enough books to satisfy my curiosity.

While many of you are looking at these images and noting how disorganized they are, I figure that placing all the books on shelves would remove the constant exposure to them. If we placed all of them into one “library room”, then we could go about our day without ever seeing a book. That constant exposure as a child made me comfortable with reading. Whereas many kids go to school and see books as homework or just plain work, I saw them as a part of my life.

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That life evolved into one of wonder and curiosity, where anything was possible. Looking across my own shelves, I’m balanced between biographies and “how-to…” books. I’m fascinated by other people’s lives and by learning how to do new things. Exposing me to those books at a young age taught me that I can learn anything and lead any life that I want. If Maura O’Holloran could study Zen Buddhism in Japan, then I could too. If Elizabeth Gilbert could travel around the world, so could I!

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Instead of watching television, I found that I’m able to take more information away from a book. Whereas a documentary talked about a person’s life, a biography felt like I was living it. Don’t get me wrong, I watched a lot of television as a kid, but as I’ve grown up, my passion for reading has increased. Usually this is backwards, we’re interested in reading when we’re young, then when we become adults, we watch television because it “takes up less time” and is “more entertaining”.

This is dangerous because we don’t usually watch one episode of a show. Instead we end up consuming more time watching television than if we were to have read. As an adult, I don’t even own a TV. Twyla Tharp writes in her book “The Creative Habit”, that she loves watching movies but she can’t watch them. If she does, she’ll lose her productivity from watching television all day. Being exposed to books taught me to grab for the binding rather than the remote, which has made me a more productive person.

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I write this post because I owe my mother gratitude for filling her house with books. I cannot express how much my life has been enriched by being surrounded by so many wonderful stories. Simply put, the person I am today was built from a coffee table of books that were always changing and always being read. Thank you Mom for filling your house with books.

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