The Book as a Crutch

atkins bookshelf quotations“Long ago I discovered the value of books. Every prison has a library, and prison wardens, knowing that you can’t file through steel bars with a copy of Tom Sawyer, gladly let you have all the books you want. I’ve been reading for thirty years. I’ve given myself a pretty fair education; good enough to enable me to appreciate decent literature. Reading? Everyone has a crutch of some sort to lean on. With some it’s whiskey or drugs. There are luckier ones who have the crutch of real faith to hold them up when they start to sag. My crutch? Books.

I’ll spend the rest of my life reading, and because I’d rather read than do anything else, I don’t look forward to years of hopeless, black despair. Most men who are in for life are filled with bitterness and hatred for the unkind fate that led them to such a horrible end. My reading has given m􀀗e the ability to judge my life, my actions and my present situation with a considerable degree of detach­ment. I can’t repeat often enough that there is not a soul in the world I can blame for what happened to me. Fate wasn’t unkind to me. I was unkind and rebellious toward fate. I’m where I belong, and I can’t even feel a twinge of bitterness toward that impersonal abstraction called ‘So­ciety’ which decreed that as its confirmed enemy I should be confined for the rest of my life.”

From I, Willie Sutton: The Personal Story of the Most Daring Bank Robber and Jail Breaker of Our Time (1970) by Quentin Reynolds.

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