Reading Great Books With Our Children

When we read great books with our children, we teach them to turn to great books throughout their lives for comfort, humor, and for illumination of the human experience. The most influential leaders and thinkers in the world have consistently relied on literature for inspiration at their most difficult moments. Nelson Mandela turned to Steinbeck during his imprisonment and says it changed his life. Lincoln was criticized for reading novels in the middle of the Civil War; he defended himself by saying that it kept him sane.

Whether we are called upon to govern a nation or organize a birthday party for too many children, the key to both surviving our days and cultivating our next generation of leaders is many books, well chosen.

— Kyle Zimmer, Everything I Learned to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, edited by Anita Silvey, p. 207

Empowered Readers

I am convinced more than ever that once the great global climactic catastrophe has destroyed the earth, when the stragglers dig themselves out from their damp bomb-shelter hovels and go hard-core low-tech, readers of young adult fiction will make up the core of the new society . . . because we are the only ones who will find living off the land fun.

— Lizzie Skurnick, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, p. 218

So Many Books. . .

It is easy to buy a book; what is more difficult is to purchase the time in which to read them. Too often the mere fact of possession tempts us to think we own the contents.

— Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), quoted in The Book Lover: Quotable Quotes, Magpie Books, London, p. 26

Roaming the World in Books

It’s refreshing to roam the world — plunging into different countries, meeting new people and tasting their cuisine. If walking another step in your home leaves you less than inspired, sashay into a well-told story. The charms of being at home return after sampling new horizons. Books are an open invitation to another place and time. . . . Good books lead us to discover that it is not our house that binds us, but rather the dullness of our thoughts. Reading refreshes the mind and the imagination.

— Lisa Groen Braner, The Mother’s Book of Well-Being, p. 72


That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book.  It’s geometrically progressive — all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.

Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

So Many Books

“Pass the time?” said the Queen.  “Books are not about passing the time.  They’re about other lives.  Other worlds.  Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it.  If one wanted to pass the time one could go to New Zealand.”

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett, p. 29


Briefing is not reading.  In fact it is the antithesis of reading.  Briefing is terse, factual, and to the point.  Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting.  Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up.

— Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader, p. 21-22

Mythic Truth of Fiction

Why else do we read fiction, anyway?  Not to be impressed by someone’s dazzling language — or at least I hope that’s not our reason.  I think that most of us, anyway, read these stories that we know are not “true” because we’re hungry for another kind of truth:  The mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those life-communities that define our own identity, and the most specific truth of all:  our own self-story.  Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself.

— Orson Scott Card, Introduction, Ender’s Game, 1991 Tor edition