Books are a promise of who we want to be. We crack open a book because we want something from it and reading is both an act of aspiration and an acquisition of knowledge. Fantasy and science fiction makes us want to be heroes in our own epic story. History books equip us with an understanding of the past in order to responsibly shape the future. Science and psychology books help us better understand the present moment while philosophy challenges us to use that moment ethically and wisely. To recommend a book to someone is to give the gift of knowledge in some form and to push them to make promises to themselves.
I didn’t fully understand the power of recommending a book until I walked around a bookstore in Delhi. Delhi is known for being a widely-read city and has some great bookstores. A few people in our group stopped into a beautiful store with a great selection. I came across one of my favorites, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, and told Asha that she must read it. It’s a book written from a unique perspective - Death - and Zusak has a talent for using words in new and exciting ways.
Asha signed on to read it and watching her journey through it over the next few weeks helped me understand what Nana, my grandmother, had been doing all these years. Asha always had her nose in the book and would stop to point out a good turn of phrase to me or ponder the power of the story. Nana had a small bookstore in West Virginia for most of my life and would always bring books for us when she came to visit. I grew up reading books she had given me and she got to know my taste very well. She searched high and low for books that I would not only like, but ones that would challenge me. As a matter of fact, most of my favorite books (e.g. The Book Thief, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) were ones given to me by her. Books were a way for my grandmother and I to bond, talk about my interests and share excitement over something, often the next book in a series.
I believe that growing up as a ravenous reader was one of the most influential building blocks of who I am today. It made me curious, it made me dream and it made me think. It gave me a number of characters to grow up with, like the ones in Harry Potter or the Pendragon Adventure. That’s the power of books and passing it on to others is a wonderful feeling.