From The New York Times:
The first thing I can remember buying for myself, aside from candy, of course, was not a toy. It was a book.
It was a religious picture book about Job from the Bible, bought at Kmart.
It was on one of the rare occasions when my mother had enough money to give my brothers and me each a few dollars so that we could buy whatever we wanted.
We all made a beeline for the toy aisle, but that path led through the section of greeting cards and books. As I raced past the children’s books, they stopped me. Books to me were things most special. Magical. Ideas eternalized.
Books were the things my brothers brought home from school before I was old enough to attend, the things that engrossed them late into the night as they did their homework. They were the things my mother brought home from her evening classes, which she attended after work, to earn her degree and teaching certificate.
Books, to me, were powerful and transformational.
. . . .
That was the beginning of a lifelong journey in which books would shape and change me, making me who I was to become.
We couldn’t afford many books. We had a small collection. They were kept on a homemade, rough-hewn bookcase about three feet tall with three shelves. One shelf held the encyclopedia, a gift from our uncle, books that provided my brothers and me a chance to see the world without leaving home.
The other shelves held a hodgepodge of books, most of which were giveaways my mother picked when school librarians thinned their collections at the end of the year. I read what we had and cherished the days that our class at school was allowed to go to the library — a space I approached the way most people approach religious buildings — and the days when the bookmobile came to our school from the regional library.
It is no exaggeration to say that those books saved me: from a life of poverty, stress, depression and isolation.
Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.