On the first week of school, I made a trip to downtown Troy to purchase the class notes for McLaughlin’s Calculus II course. At the time, it seemed like pure evil; a textbook that would be revised every year and become outdated, thus lowering its resell value? One that couldn’t be found on and downloaded off of the internet? And I had to walk through this ridiculous East Coast lack of temperature to go buy it at a small, local bookstore? As I dredged down The Approach, I grumbled to myself while my Californian soul slowly froze and broke off bit by bit, and my retired-for-a-year legs protested. You can imagine, then, my horror and dismay when I reached the front door and realized that I had another class on schedule before the store would be open. I tried to make myself as small as possible on the walk back, hoping that nobody would see the flashing neon sign above my head that said, “this idiot near froze himself to death for no reason.” But alas, I hadn’t obtained a textbook. And so I waited.
That weekend, I made my second trip to the bookstore. It was open this time. I made a beeline for the counter, where I quickly received my textbook for $50, no less—$50! What mountains of food could I buy from Walmart with that, or at Father’s price point even?—and I made a move to leave. But as I turned around, something caught my eye. Books. Yes, there were books in this bookstore. I reached tentatively, gingerly even, for the first book that had caught my eye (a copy of The Martian, which I didn’t realize was by the brilliant writer Andy Weir), and so I found myself walking out of the bookstore two hours later with $17.28 less on my credit card, and a fat bunch of glued-together papers in my backpack. Honestly, I was a little disappointed in the back of my head that the total hadn’t been a dime more, but it didn’t matter. As I walked back, there was a spring in my step, and my head was full of fantasy worlds I’d long forgotten about.
You see, in those two hours I had talked to one of the store clerks, sifted the shelves, and rediscovered a lost joy: reading. Over winter break, I had made plans with some friends to do monthly readings, but those never came to fruition; I had talked to another friend about how reading brings people together in the most uniquely intimate way. You’re processing certain thoughts and ideas that are expressed in a very particular matter, and the permanency of those words and ideas has the potential to transcend any one individual’s existence. Most of the ideas that have passed through our world have long been transcribed in written language. And if you’re going to be a part of this world, what better way is there to connect to it and learn about it than through reading? I had left this crucial part of life behind for too long, and I was glad to welcome it back with open arms—and I think everyone should, so I leave you with this quote:
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” – Mark Twain