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How Reading Saved My Life

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There are many reasons why people enjoy reading. For me, reading is more than enjoyment and recreation. It is more than study and academics. For me reading is as essential as breathing. There is no doubt in my mind that without the company of good books, I would be in prison today, or perhaps much worse.

I grew up in a terrible household. Everyday I think about my childhood and the terrible things that my sisters and I endured. To say that my family was dysfunctional, would be quite an understatement. For years, I have wanted to put this in writing, because I have suffered so much due to my parents’ lack of common sense and unwillingness to change their crass and ridiculous behavior.

The things that I suffered are known only to my closest friends. Not even my ex-wife knew about the sordid, gross behavior that I had to digest as a child. I suppose I never really trusted her. But I am digressing, am I not? Suffice to say that I was viewing sexual activity before I could ride a bike and was totally sexually active well before my 12th birthday. That’s pretty bad!

There have been times when the guilt has almost me driven mad, and despite a fantastic relationship with God, I continue to battle deep inner impulses. However, during this time a wonderful champion came to my aid, and has helped me become (despite the dark influences), a man of kindness, love, strength, and determination. That champion was the printed page.

One thing my father instilled in me (and I love him for that), was an immense love for reading. He himself could not read well, and he would almost daily petition me to read to him. We both enjoyed comic books, especially of the Super Hero genre. He loved the Dark Knight stories (from the Batman series) and we both loved Superman and The Green Lantern. He would constantly tell me that I was highly intelligent, and would one day become a great academic. Later my dad would bring home books, mostly fiction novels, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Time Machine, and we would read those together.

Then a curious thing began to happen. I discovered that reading allowed me to enter another dimension, a magical world, which allowed me to create another reality; a reality far better and safer than the one I hated so much.

I soon discovered that I could escape the darkness around me, by putting myself into the stories I read. It seemed so easy, so natural for me. I remember my first reading of The Legend of King Arthur by Sir Walter. I could see myself sitting with these great knights as they recounted their amazing adventures and could almost feel the cool, enchanting, mystical atmosphere of England during the Middle Ages. I watched as the Time Traveler constructed his fantastic machine, and I traveled with him 800,000 years into the future.

In grammar school, I became the champion storyteller, captivating even my teachers. I won awards for the best storyteller in school, five years in a row.

Books saved my life. There is no way I would be alive today without them. I am certain I would have self-destructed. I owe my very existence to the writers of those fantastic novels, and perhaps one day (on the other side of eternity), I will shake the hands of H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and many others. They allowed me to visit far away places, in magical lands, and walk with wonderful people. I met beautiful maidens and great men of valor, and watched them defeat the forces of evil.

I am, more than a little bitter about my past. It hurt me deeply. But I remember the words of fictional character, Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow F Call, from Larry McMurty’s excellent novel, Lonesome Dove: “Nothing good ever comes without a price.”


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