In Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book, Ray Bradbury recounts the story of how his aunt, who was more like a sister to him, gave him a book that changed his life: “It was the Depression and we had no money. But we had books at hand. One afternoon [Aunt] Neva brought out a huge volume [from our attic] that weighed ten pounds. It was Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. I had never heard of Poe and had never seen that book. She handed it to me and said. ‘Young man, read this! You’re going to love it! I’ve loved Poe all my life and now it’s up to you.’ … I plunged in and got drunk immediately. I was nine years old and never read anything like it; I fell in love completely with Edgar Allan Poe.” Many years later, Bradbury’s aunt passed away and left that book to him. Decades later, at the age of 90, Bradbury explains that he never forgot that precious gift: “[The strongest memory] is my remembrance of that wonderful Poe book that she introduced me to all those years ago… [the book] that changed my life.”
Indeed the books that we keep on our bookshelves serve as intellectual or developmental milestones along our journey in life. Sometimes if you’re lucky like Bradbury, one of those books just might be the one that changed — or can change — your life. What is your most cherished book?
For further reading: Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book, edited by Sean Manning, Da Capo Press (2010)