The glassy hill
The eye and the ear

Built by books

Fairy Garland illustrated by Edmund Dulac

In her 2012 novel How it All Began, Penelope Lively describes her central character, Charlotte Rainsford, in a manner that many of us can relate to:

Edmund Dulac"Forever, reading has been central, the necessary fix, the support system," writes Lively. "[Charlotte's] life has been informed by reading. She has read not just for distraction, sustenance, to pass the time, but she has read in a state of primal innocence, reading for enlightenment, for instruction, even. She has read to find out how sex works, how babies are born, she has read to discover what it is to be good, or bad; she has read to find out if things are the same for others as they are for her – then, discovering that frequently they are not, she has read to find out what it is that other people experience that she is missing.

"Specifically, she read bits of the Old Testament when she was ten because of all that stuff about issues of blood, and the things thou shalt not do with thy neighbour’s wife. All of this was confusing rather than enlightening. She got hold of a copy of Fanny Hill when she was eighteen, and was aghast, but also intrigued.

"She read Rosamond Lehmann when she was nineteen, because her heart had been broken. She saw that such suffering is perhaps routine, and, while not consoled, became more stoical.

"She read Saul Bellow, in her thirties, because she wanted to know how it is to be American. After reading, she wondered if she was any wiser, and read Updike, Roth, Mary McCarthy and Alison Lurie in further pursuit of Arthur Rackhamthe matter. She read to find out what it was like to be French or Russian in the nineteenth century, to be a rich New Yorker then, or a Midwestern pioneer. She read to discover how not to be Charlotte, how to escape the prison of her own mind, how to expand, and experience.

"Thus has reading wound in with living, each a complement to the other. Charlotte knows herself to ride upon a great sea of words, of language, of stories and situations and information, of knowledge, some of which she can summon up, much of which is half lost, but is in there somewhere, and has had an effect on who she is and how she thinks. She is as much a product of what she has read as of the way in which she has lived; she is like millions of others built by books, for whom books are an essential foodstuff, who could starve without."

''The Good Book'' by Katherine Cameron

“I need fiction, I am an addict," Francis Spufford declared in his poignant memoir, The Child That Books Built. "This is not a figure of speech. I don’t quite read a novel a day, but I certainly read some of a novel every day, and usually some of several. There is always a heap of opened paperbacks face down near the bed, always something current on the kitchen table to reach for over coffee when I wake up. Colonies of prose have formed in the bathroom and in the dimness of the upstairs landing, so that I don’t go without text even in the leftover spaces of the house where I spend least time….I can be happy with an essay or a history if it interlaces like a narrative, if its author uses fact or impression to make a story-like sense, but fiction is kind, fiction is the true stuff....I don’t give it up. It is entwined too deeply within my history, it has been forming the way I see for too long."

"Reading was my escape and my comfort, " Paul Aster concurs, "my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head.”

"When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began," says Rita Mae Brown, and I know just what she means.

Reading at the Desk by Carl Larsson

Thus I've been surprised (and a little alarmed) recently by conversations in several of the different spheres I inhabit in which smart, creative people admit that they haven't read many books (in some cases, any books) in a long while. My god, I keep thinking, if artistic and literary friends aren't reading, what hope for the rest of our culture?

Not reading is something I can't really fathom. I'm not boasting here; my reading habit is compulsive, like Spufford's, bordering on obsession, and I'd spend my last dollar on a book, not food. (I know this, because I occasionally did so in the difficult days of my youth.) I cannot imagine how I would survive were I confined to this one single life, this one problematic body, this one limited, fragile consciousness, instead of roaming the wide, wondrous world through the magic of ink and the alphabet. 

There's a famous scene (famous to bookish folks, anyway) in the American television show The Gilmore Girls in which teenaged Rory fills her backpack with books to read before catching the bus to school...explaining to her mother that she needs a pack big enough for all of them because each one -- Reading at the Breakfast Table by Carl Larssona novel, a biography, short stories, essays, etc. -- is necessary for different reading moods. Yes! My housemate found this hilarious, since it was the way I loaded my backpack too (in the days before e-books, of course). One of my great fears in life is being stuck somewhere with nothing to read. Oh, the horror!

"Writing is a form of therapy," said Graham Greene; "sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation." Greene's words can apply to reading too--

I was about to write: "since I don't know how people can cope without reading." But in fact I do know, for I once spent several months unable to read (or to write) while recovering from meningitis, which affected both my vision and my ability to concentrate on the linear unfolding of a text. Even audiobooks were too hard to follow; I was reduced to watching old episodes of Buffy and Angel: simple, visual, and familiar enough that I could waver in and out of the story. I recall saying over and over to friends: I just don't feel like me. Who am I, if I'm not reading or writing?  It was, I am very glad to say, a temporary experience -- but profoundly unsettling, and just plain profound. It is frightening, yes, but also enlightening when life strips away those things that we most depend on...and then gives them back again.

Reading on the Bench by Carl Larsson

Even stranger than hearing that literary friends are no longer reading (or read only online) is meeting aspiring writers who rarely read...and this happens much more often than you'd think. The key word is "aspiring," however -- for I can't recall a single one of the many successful writers I've edited over the years who wasn't also a passionate and voracious reader of books, of one sort or another. Such alien creatures must exist, somewhere, since all things are possible under the sun, but I don't know how I'd work with a non-bookish writer. What common language would we speak?

Of course, sometimes when a novelist is at work, he or she will avoid reading some books or authors in order to avoid certain kinds of influence (a rhythm of prose that interfere with one's own, for example) -- although this varies from writer to writer, and also between one stage of writing and another. For me, when I'm on a first or last draft, I tend to limit the amount of fiction I'm reading (making up for it with nonfiction instead) so that my narrative voice is not overlayed by another fiction writer's style...but for in-between drafts I can, and do, read pretty much anything. I'm not worried, then, about influence; on the contrary, I seek it out: learning this from one writer and that from another; inspired by good books, educated (on what to avoid) by bad ones; filling the well so that the internal Waters of Story will never run dry.

Arthur Rackham

"A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn't diminish us," assures Madeleine L'Engle, "but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can't wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else."

"Read, read, read," advised William Faulkner. "Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window."

 Cincinnati Public Library

James Baldwin was also a child "built by books," in New York City during the '20s and '30s. "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read," he recalled.  "It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.

"Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul," says Joyce Carol Oates

Holland House Library in London during the Blitz, 1940

 Or as Betty Smith wrote in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943): "The world was hers for the reading."

Indeed it was. And still is.

Reading in the garden at Weaver's Cottage, 2007; photograph by Alan Lee

Images above: "The Fairy Garland" and "Little Girl in a Book" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), a pen & ink drawing by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), The Good Book" by Katherine Cameron (1874-1965), three paintings by Carl Larsson (1853-1919), "Making Clothes for Her Dolls" by Arthur Rackham, and three photgraphs: boys in front of the Public Library in Cincinatti, Ohio (exact date unknown), the Holland House Library in London during the Blitz (1940), and reading in the garden at Weaver's Cottage (2007, photograph by Alan Lee).

Related posts: Reading in the Woods, Libraries Great and Small, The Communion of Words, and In the Forest of Stories (Parts I, II, & III).


Yes! I've been deeply noticing the lack of reading since my daughter is a very strange state. I can't remember another time when I didn't have a book (or three) on the go. I feel inspired to rectify this now - even if it takes me three months to read one novel!

That picture from the blitz is so moving.

I seem to have gone from an obsessive bookworm to an occasional reader, it's not a situation I like or am comfortable with...I love reading, I always have, so what has happened to me? I think what holds me back is simply the busyness, the overwhelming ON-ness of modern life, the demands (or rather, the perceived demands) from everywhere (including the time vampire that is the www!) on my time and my mind. I want to read good books, not airport trash, I want to read books that make me stop and think, that make me see the world differently, that make light-bulbs go off inside my mind with their insights or the beauty of their language...but I feel constantly that I don't have the time or the 'brainspace' to do justice to them. I'm skimming, rather than diving in deeply. It's an illusion, I know, or a lot of it is...I can find time to skim the internet, dipping my toes in, but never stop long enough for a proper immersion, there's always MORE that 'needs' to be read, witnessed. But it's not very nourishing, it doesn't 'fill me up' like a good book does. I need to fix this, because I don't quite feel like 'me' without a book on the go.

On the subject of babies, Nomi, I found I read a lot more when my girls were tiny, because I found I could read while breastfeeding (curled into the corner of the couch, knees up, cushion on my lap), and if the baby dropped off to sleep, I'd just keep reading! :)

"Charlotte knows herself to ride upon a great sea of words" - what a great image.
I just read Margaret Mazzantini's Twice Born and there is a description of the deliberate destruction of the National Library in Sarajevo that is as harrowing as learning of the burning of the ancient library of Alexandria.

Beautiful post, as always. Your posts are like a wonderful buffet. So much spread out for the reader, to enjoy, and to sample, and to take home with him/her.

And oh the illustrations! I have loved before, the one of the little girl, sitting in the book. And that next-to-last photo is heartbreaking... -sigh-

Thank you,

I typically read 100-150 books a year, about half fiction and half nonfiction and I am one of those obsessive types who tracks books read. In 2012, both of my very elderly dachshunds passed away, and of course I was heartbroken, but I did not realize that I was suffering from real depression until around August, when I looked at the list of books read that year, and it was only 30 or so, and half of those were re-reads of my favorite "comfort" books.

One of the signs of depression is to lose interest in things you normally enjoy -- I had already stopped painting, and birdwatching, but it wasn't until I realized I had stopped reading that I knew there was a serious problem. It's a touchstone for how healthy I feel, both physically and spiritually. Fortunately, after a new dog came into my life, things gradually turned around and the reading returned full force.

I always have 3-5 books going at once -- I totally get the "moods" thing! There's the lightweight mystery for the bus commute to work, and the more intense nonfiction (history, nature, travel, biography) for lunch and dinner, and a deliberately duller book for the nightstand to put myself to sleep with.

I cannot imagine an aspiring writer not bothering to read. I don't know any aspiring painters who don't look at other art, or aspiring musicians who don't listen to music -- what would be the point?

Lovely post, Terri. And what a wonderful selection of images. The two photos I found particularly moving.

I've not been able to read much for the past year or so. I dearly miss it! And the feeling is exactly as you describe: I don't feel like me; it's like there's something integral missing. Hopefully that will change.

Nomi and Christina - I enjoyed your thoughts on reading with newborns: my experience was similar to yours, Nomi, when each of my boys was tiny. I had thought I'd be able to read more than ever, as you did, Christina, but I was just so blasted tired, I'd be lucky to get through a couple of pages before nodding off. : )

Oh! Rory and Buffy and Angel all referenced at once! Excuse me while I geek out for a moment, because I so rarely ever watch television that the event of seeing the few shows I've ever watched and like on my fave creativity blog is omgamazing!!!

Secondly, I read compulsively and obsessively as a child, but that has waned a (tiny) bit. Were I to take up the amount of reading I did back then once again, I would have no time to write, paint, and barely any time to sleep and eat. That said, I do indulge my inner child once in a great while and will spend a full day and night reading, just like I did back then.

I was at "The Strand" the other day and noticed an awesome t-shirt: "If you go home with someone, and they don't have any books, don't f**k them." Had to share this here!

Books are so integral to my psyche that I don't have friends who don't read. This isn't a conscious discrimination, and certainly I do befriend folks who don't read, but the best friends, the ones I deeply connect with and share soulful adventures of the mind and body with, they are readers just like me. I, too, can't imagine not reading... but like I mentioned, I rarely watch television and very very rarely watch movies, and I know many people who couldn't fathom watching so little.

Every day I thank God for books. Even the bad ones.

Oh and I have to add... if my friends are deep readers, you have imagine my subconscious standards for a spouse. My husband is the only person I know who reads more than me. For Valentine's day, we ate $1 pizza and spend the rest of our budget on books for one another.

Books are my best friends. I love them dearly and treasure each and every one I've ever touched. When I was a child, my parents couldn't send me to my room for punishment because that was where I wanted to be. Instead, I would have to sit in the family room with them and watch television. Talk about horrors!

The quotes and encouragement from masters is wonderful. I can relate. But I'll say this, and mean it my truly, it is the sight of you reading that meant the most. Thank you kind Terr.

OK--so I'm the only one who lit on this phrase? Dirty old lady.

How Sex Works
“She has read to find out how sex works. . .--Penelope Lively in How It All Began

It’s simple plumbing, but the steel
is in your heart. When the steel is melted
by the fire of your passion, you will find
it’s not so simple after all.

We each have to discover it on our own.
No book, no diagram, no video--
where all the unsightly wrinkles
have been ironed out--can tell you.

The fit may be difficult, but the heart
does not mind, besides it’s a cosmic joke.
That’s why we close our eyes,
otherwise laughter would bubble up.

Nothing kills romance faster than laughter.
Nothing keeps couples together better than a good laugh.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Hi Terri ,I really loved this post it struck such a cord. I cannot imagine being without a book on the go. My whole life has been marked by the books I have read ,the writers lives I have followed and of course working all my life in the library service. I love helping people with their choices and finding things that people are searching for,the delight on their faces if I find the book they want on the shelves is all part of the magic!
love Angela

Oh, that's *exactly* how my parents punished me, too! Or just chastised me regularly for "not being social enough" -- I had to sit in the living room with them without a book! The horrid thing was that their idea of "being social" was to sit silently and watch TV. Neither of my parents was much of a reader -- don't know where I got the passion from but I'm glad I did!

Nothing kills romance faster than laughter?

Somehow in the rift of forever after
And loss, my favorite memories
In the middle times, between
Youthful wide-eyed post teen,
Hope for swooping hearts to please
High sentiment, wedding rings, softer

Than what was expected, there came
Myriad losses, tosses, sour dream
Could be now worse that love lost.
It was in the middle year, we tossed
Away some foolish bridge crossed,
And in new warmth, as in a dream
Laughed and laughed without any blame.

Now you are gone and I am near
Times lessons, less much fear
More dignity, and near to mope,
The echo of laughter, grope
At memory, who we were
Laughing for all that can be dear.
So it comes and goes, like soap
Bubbles caught in rainbow hope,

I saw myself twice in this post. First in the description of Charlotte, particularly the last paragraph. Second in the image "Reading on the Bench" by Carl Larsson. Take away the dog and replace him with a couple more cats and that is exactly me.

Thank you for all of your posts. I enjoy reading the text and looking at the images, but this one in particular truly resonated with me.

Yes, there's no getting away from the fact that mainstream culture no longer recognizes reading great literature as a requirement of being well-educated. I started a fiction writers' critique group recently. All the participants are educated and enthusiastic about writing, but several of them seem to have very shallow reading experiences. To me, it shows in their writing. Going to workshops and writers' conferences can give one the techniques of writing, but in my opinion, technique can't replace good thinking and solid concepts. Those are most easily learned by reading, reading, reading.

Oh my, you two made me laugh this morning!!!!!

Angela, I have such deep love and respect for librarians. Here in Devon, however, many small rural libraries are under threat of closure, including ours. It utterly breaks my heart. Something has gone terribly wrong in this country when literacy, education, and culture -- for *all* communties and especially *all* young people -- are not a priority.

I, too, am seeing more and more work by young writers and would-be-writers who clearly haven't read much, or deeply, or widely. I don't want to be one of those cranky old women insisting "It all used to be so much better in my day; what's the matter with these young'uns," but it's a problem that a number of us in the mythic arts/fantasy/ya fields (and probably elsewhere as well) are noticing...but what's to be done?

And thank *you*, kind Mokihana.

Howard and I can relate to that!

I too don't watch much television (takes up too much potential reading time, for less reward, in my humble opinion), but was a massive Buffy fan back in the day. It's a bit dated now (though it still has its charms), and I wonder if young viewers coming across it now can even imagine how radical and ground-breaking it was. When I learned that Marge Piercy -- one of my writing heroes since I was a college student -- was a Buffy fan too, I was thrilled.

That Strand t-shirt quote comes from the filmmaker John Waters, by the way! I saw this on a t-shirt when I was at the University of Chichester in November:

'Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.'
- Lemony Snickett

You're very, very welcome Zhi Zhu.

It's bewildering, isn't it? Yet I meet would-be writers like that all the damn time. Reading a lot, like writing a lot, is one of the ways that novelists practice their craft...and continue practiicing it throughout their lives.

In "The Getaway Car," Ann Patchett says:

"Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration? Chances are, any child who stays with an instrument for more than two weeks has some adult making her practice, and any child who sticks with it longer than that does so because she understands that practice makes her play better and that there is a deep, soul-satisfying pleasure in improvement. If a person of any age picked up the cello for the first time and said, 'I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!' you would pity their delusion, yet beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker.

"Perhaps you’re thinking here that playing an instrument is not an art itself but an interpretation of the composer’s art, but I stand by my metaphor. The art of writing comes way down the line, as does the art of interpreting Bach. Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft."

* * *

I'm very glad a new dog found his/her way to you, and returned you to life and books!

I read an article somewhere that defined heavy readers as people who read just *one* novel a month. I'm still scratching my head over that one....

Thank you, dear.

I haven't read that, and appreciate the recommendation!

Nomi, Christina, and Lynn (whose comment is below):

If this post sparks you into reading more again, then I'll be a happy woman indeed.

Forced to watch family television? That truly is punishment.

I had one of those childhoods where no one wanted me around, which in one way was fortunate, because if I was off somewhere with a book, no one cared, and no one interrupted. I particularly liked reading at the tops of trees....

The opening paragraph of an article by book critic Laura Miller ("Is Reading Antisocial?") reminded me of this discussion:

"My parents had a mixed marriage. I’m referring not to their religious upbringings (Catholic and Episcopalian) but to their attitudes toward reading in company. My father thought two or more people sitting in a room, each one reading, could be a highly congenial arrangement. My mother regarded poking your nose in a book when you could be talking to another person as an offense against society and all that was decent; she could not allow it to stand. Later, when I starting dating a man whose own mother picked up a book and happily joined the two of us as we sat reading in her living room, I felt a bit like Harry Potter arriving at Hogwarts for the first time."


Article link:

Are these young writers perhaps more influenced by television and other media than by literature? I'm finding that so many YA books I pick up these days - a field I used to love - are just plain badly written, plotted more like tv shows than like novels...but maybe that's just me. Maybe I too am turning into a "cranky old woman" (at the age of 34).

I wonder if this might be relevant, from a recent article about David Foster Wallace and irony (this seems to be my day for cutting-and-pasting from articles in Salon):

"Twenty years ago, Wallace wrote about the impact of television on U.S. fiction. He focused on the effects of irony as it transferred from one medium to the other. In the 1960s, writers like Thomas Pynchon had successfully used irony and pop reference to reveal the dark side of war and American culture. Irony laid waste to corruption and hypocrisy. In the aftermath of the ’60s, as Wallace saw it, television adopted a self-deprecating, ironic attitude to make viewers feel smarter than the naïve public, and to flatter them into continued watching. Fiction responded by simply absorbing pop culture to 'help create a mood of irony and irreverence, to make us uneasy and so "comment" on the vapidity of U.S. culture, and most important, these days, to be just plain realistic.' But what if irony leads to a sinkhole of relativism and disavowal? For Wallace, regurgitating ironic pop culture is a dead end:

'Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It [uses] the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.' "

(apologies for the length of this comment, Terri)

Oh, here's the article link:

It's a really interesting piece, and the authors ask - but don't entirely answer - this question:

"In the present moment, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does art build on the best of human creation and also open possibilities for the future? What does inspired art-making look like?"

I'd like to think it looks like Mythic Arts.

Like Frances Spufford I have books lurking in every corner of the house - just in case there's a moment when I could sneak a few pages ... There is always more than one book on the go, it tends to be fiction by my bed, essays in the bathroom, facts of some description - or at least opinions - in the sitting room vying for my attention with the dreaded TV. Whatever I can't live without comes to the kitchen with me and even sometimes in the car - in case whichever child I'm picking up is late. I read loads when my babies were little too and found it was only in the years between baby and teenager that I just didn't have time for my own books, but I enjoyed reading theirs to them very much. I know my life to have been incredibly enriched by the words of others and cannot imagine every giving up reading them.

My childhood home had no television so we'd all sit around the fire together, reading. Utter bliss.
Reading online is different from reading a book - our attention span is shorter, and there's always the temptation to check emails or Twitter, so we jump between things and don't encounter that deep immersion in another reality - like deep sleep - we get from a good book.
Sometimes you just need to switch everything off and dive in, knowing you can't surf a paperback.

"I felt a bit like Harry Potter arriving at Hogwarts for the first time."


Oh heavens, never apologize for a long and engaging comment; I appreciate the discussion here.

I read that article in Salon too and wanted to cheer. I'm so damn *tired* of irony. As one spice among many it is bracing (hey, I live in England, the land of irony), but too much of it ruins the whole meal. And we've been served up too much of it for too many years now.

And oh yes, yes, I'd like to think it looks like Mythic Arts too.

No doubt that is why we are such soul sisters, Suzi. Rattle our bones and stories would shake out.

I would never ever want to trade my real books for e-books...but do appreciate e-book readers when I'm away from home. Howard and I were stuck on the A30 near Exeter for *two-and-a-half hours* on Monday (a lorry accident), and I was incredibly grateful to have several unread novels tucked into my coat pocket. I finished one and started another while poor bored Howard was reduced to doing card tricks.

I want your childhood, please! And I totally agree about switching off the Internet. As both a blogger and a book writer/editor, I have such deeply conflicted feelings about the Internet....

(see comment above, under Nomi & Christina's)

I know you're a Lewis Hyde fan, so must know this...?

“Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage.” - Lewis Hyde

I don't know where it's from, read it somewhere or other and jotted it down!

Ah, my magical childhood was overshadowed by tragedy so I choose my memories with care... ;-)
Your posts send me off to mull over my influences and writing and creativity. I don't usually share those inner examinations, but I reckon my writing is improved by all I find here, including the comments. It's like having a group of (fabulous) informal mentors. Thank you!
P.S. Whenever I find myself drifting on Internet stuff I remind myself that, if I'm to consider myself a writer, I'm meant to be a Content Provider - that usually sends me back to work.

One of my great adventures in New York City was The Strand. My new friend and
colleague introduced it to me and I was just in heaven. It looks like a store that has strayed away from Paris (not that I've been there except in daydreams and movies). I bought
my copy of Graham Joyce's "Some Kind Of Fairy Tale" there. All book lovers are blessed
if they can get there.

Yesterday for some reason, I couldn't open up any of the comments, but today, good
luck! I meant to read the longer posts as I have time today. I too dislike irony and weary tales of how life is all nothingness. Big fan of Pynchon. Read and reread V years ago. I still reread Lewis Hyde' "TheGift," but must now read more of his work.

I am not a Pollyanna but I believe in hope. And one more thank you to you, Terri, for
this opportunity to share such rich thoughts.

Oh, Francis Spufford described my house, books everywhere, in various stages of being read. Before sleep, fiction; at other times of the day, history, poetry, gardening books, dharma books, whatever appeals, all in a wonderful jumble, inspiring me. In the car, I listen to books. (Sometimes my own, revisiting earlier books in a series for inspiration while writing a fresh one.) And I often walk with a MP3 player loaded with a novel. I can't imagine being without books!

Thank you for this wonderful collection of quotes on reading, and your thoughts, Teri. The comments are the icing on the cake.

Thanks for letting me know the quote is from Waters. The Snickett one is fabulous, too.

All the good ones are Buffy fans... :D

The Strand is heaven, isn't it? One of my favorites-- the top favorite, I think, is The Last Bookstore in LA. And the little pockets of magical used bookstores in the French Quarter in New Orleans...

I *love* that. And yes, I love Lewis Hyde, and have been very influenced by his books over the years.

The quote, by the way, comes from "Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking."

Forgive me for that glib comment about your childhood in that case, Lee. And thank you so much for being part of the discussion here.

And isn't it strange when you walk into a house where there are no books...?

I don't mean to sound like a snob...I grew up around many people who did not read, and I don't want to imply that that made them bad or stupid. (My great-aunt Clara, for example, was one of the wisest women I've ever met--in her diffident, down-to-earth way--and I never saw her so much as touch a book...or even a newspaper, except to cut out coupons.) But having been immersed in the world of books, and of the arts, for so many years now, I find bookless houses completely disorienting.

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