This time of year we often reflect on those things that we are thankful for. Toward the top of the list are things like family and friends, good health, good fortune. Below that level is where things often start to vary for people. I was trying to think of about the things that I was thankful for after family and friends, good health and good fortune. What I came up with was books. I am thankful for books.
From a young age, my parents emphasized the importance of books and of reading. My mom told me that books could take me anywhere and teach me anything. I was four or five when she told me that and I took it to heart. My dad read to me often. Because of this, I learned to read quickly and from an early time, books have been an important part of my life. Indeed, for the last 25 years, books mark important events in my life like a kind of bibliographical calendar.
More recently, I’ve come to realize something else about book that I am thankful for: that I am in the fortunate position to buy one whenever I feel like it. This wasn’t always the case. I can remember many times when I was younger where I would look longingly at books, but not have the money to buy them. When I did buy a book, it was a weighty decision to buy a new hardcover for $19.95 when money was tight and that $19.95 was really needed for the gas or electric bill.
Today, however, if there is a book that I want, I buy it without worry. We don’t spend a lot of money on fancy cars, or expensive clothes or furniture. But when it comes to books, I allow myself some extravagance. I might buy an audio book and then decide I want the Kindle edition as well. Sometimes, for books that I really like, I’ll pickup a paper version in addition to have on my shelf. Sometimes, I’ll discover a rare edition online and spend a little more than I might otherwise spend to get it. By doing this, I am taking small advantage of the good fortunate we’ve had to act on what my parents taught me when I was a youngster. Because of that, I sit in my office today, surrounded by books that have taken me everywhere, and taught me countless things.
No investment I have made has given more of a return than books. Twenty dollars spent on a hardcover returns not only hours of enjoyment in reading, but countless times its value in the lessons I take from it, whether the book is fiction or nonfiction. Books taught me the difference between a specialist and a generalist, and have turned me into the latter, something else for which I am grateful this time of year. Reading books taught me how to write and writing has become my avocation, more for me to be thankful for.
I am surrounded here in my office my somewhere around 1,200 books, collected slowly over a lifetime. On my digital bookshelves, there are another 1,200 audio books and 500 or so ebooks. I could go on and list why I am thankful for each and every one of them, but I will spare you that. Instead, I’ll just say that I spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to be able to read, to have passion for reading, to enjoy books, and to be in the incredibly fortunate position to acquire and accumulate them. For much of my life, I knew what it was like to look upon bookshelves with envy and longing. To be able to own my own books and read them is something for which I will be forever thankful.
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