105 Ways to Give a Book

An Elaboration on Belief

This I BelieveMotherReader’s off at the beach with the girls for a couple of days (a trip that, alas, I couldn’t join them on thanks to a big project due at work), but she asked me to make mention of the book This I Believe during her absence, and I was more than happy to oblige. The book, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, is a collection of essays on the most deeply held personal philosophies of... well, as the cover puts it, “remarkable men and women.” The concept began as a radio program with Edward R. Murrow back in the 1950s, and was recently revived by NPR (a revival I first heard about in reference to magician/comedian Penn Jillette’s participation).

The sheer scope of essayists is overwhelming, from historic to contemporary. Leonard Bernstein, William F. Buckley, Benjamin Carson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Newt Gingrich, Helen Hayes, Robert Heinlein, Helen Keller, John McCain, Colin Powell, Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Andrew Sullivan, John Updike, and dozens more.

While no one entry can begin to encapsulate the vast range represented by the whole, MR thought that Rick Moody’s entry, “The Joy and Enthusiasm of Reading,” was particularly appropriate to this forum, and I have to agree. I’ll quote just the first paragraph; you’ll have to pick up the book for the rest — an experience I doubt you’ll regret in the least. (Or I suppose you could read the whole thing at NPR’s website — and hear Moody himself reading it as well. But I still say pick up the whole book.)
I believe in the absolute and unlimited liberty of reading. I believe in wandering through the stacks and picking out the first thing that strikes me. I believe in choosing books based on the dust jacket. I believe in reading books because others dislike them or find them dangerous. I believe in choosing the hardest book imaginable. I believe in reading up on what others have to say about this difficult book, and then making up my own mind.
So how do your individual philosophies — and we’ll limit it to reading philosophies for the moment — compare with Moody’s (either this brief excerpt or the entire piece)? Anyone care to venture your own essay (or mini-essay)?


Mary Lee said...

This is my favorite podcast! I love the scope, the variety, the truth (whether I agree or disagree) of the essays. I'm glad for the heads-up that there's a collection in print. Gotta have it!

Rather than submitting my own essay on reading, I'll borrow from Daniel Pennac:

Daniel Pennac's
The Reader's Bill of Rights

1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes

Little Willow said...

Hi, FR! I have just a moment here, so I'll be brief: I believe in writing, reading, telling, watching -- communicating! -- engaging, intelligent, and thought-provoking stories that are worthwhile.

Stacey Shubitz said...

I helped another teacher with "This I Believe" essays this past year. It was amazing. Very powerful.