“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” -James Baldwin
I have a soft spot for James Baldwin. Sadly, I never met the man but he taught me quite a lot about what it’s like to see the world through other people’s eyes.
But in this quotation, it’s like he’s showing me what the world looks like from my eyes—or at least what it used to look like. If I hadn’t been a voracious reader as a kid, my world would have been much smaller and more confusing. Reading allowed me to “go” places and “meet” people. It got me out of the bubble I lived in, long before I was old enough to break free of it myself.
The truth is, reading is the most wonderful, subversive thing you can do for yourself. It can show you infinite possibilities. And no one can take that knowledge away from you.
What I read today
I still read, of course; it’s the other half of my work as a writer. Mostly I read nonfiction and periodicals (The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harvard Business Review, the occasional Sports Illustrated). I joke that the only way I know I’m on vacation is if I’m reading a novel.
Yesterday, I wrote about my holiday plans: mostly work, very little play. But Mr. Baldwin reminds me that I can travel without leaving my reading chair. So I’m going to commit to reading two fiction books during the holidays: One will be MB Caschetta’s story collection Pretend I’m Your Friend (I don’t have to pretend—she is my friend). I’m open to suggestions for a novel, so comment away.
It’s high time to be subversive and read.