I hated reading in high school. I did everything I could to avoid it. In truth, the only book I recall reading in its entirety was The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
Something about that book captivated me. It didn’t have many pages. That was certainly a major factor in my completion of it.
But something in me shifted during college when I studied abroad in London.
I still remember roaming aimlessly through Charing Cross Road near the Leicester Square metro station. It was 1995, and bookstores, used and new, were still popular.
I can recall where I was when I read Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
I’m certain I can’t fully appreciate how these books shaped my mind, but I do know that upon returning from Europe I was a different person.
Before, I loathed reading. Now, I spent most of my available time in the University of Michigan libraries and local Borders bookstore (their flagship headquarters).
Each book turned new lights on in my now inquisitive mind. Each new section of the bookstore I explored opened up a new dimension to reality for me.
I couldn’t get enough books. Self-help, fiction, Eastern thought, psychology, philosophy, popular science, mysticism … it was all thrilling.