there is a facebook list, from the BBC, of 99 books you should read. I have read 75 of them. Reading has in many ways, made my life what it is. Learning to read opened up the world to me. I could go beyond my family, beyond my street, beyond my neighborhood. It was a revelation to me.
I did not come from a family of readers. We had a small handful of books in the house before I started reading. Reading was not encouraged; it was viewed as anti-social and anti-family. I actually think that that was part of the original attraction for me. I could be alone when I read.
I had no discrimination and no taste. I read everything I got my hands on. I was probably the only 8 year old who had read both Dante's Inferno and Bob,Carol, Ted and Alice. I read a slew of classics, because my Dad found a set of books in the trash -- volumes by Poe, Conan Doyle, Ibsen, Stevenson. I still have them. I read pulp paperbacks, every sci-fi book at the Severna Park Library. I read a lot of smut. I read magazines, cookbooks, a ton of reader's digest condensed books.
Books became my peer group; my beliefs and opinions changed with every book I read. I went through an incredibly greedy, selfish phase after reading Atlas Shrugged. Heinlein had me thinking fascism wasn't such a bad thing. 1984 had me convinced government was a terrible idea. I read The Jungle and did not eat a hot dog for more than 10 years.
Eventually, I established my own sense of self, and my own opinions. Reading no longer pushes me into one thing or another, but it still mesmerizes and entrances. I still am carried away by other places, by living, however briefly, someone else's life. I have never read anything that couldn't teach me something, even if the only lesson was the writer didn't know how to write.
I owe my first grade teacher a huge debt, for teaching me to read.