No, these books of my first awakening are indispensable to what I have become, such as it is — to my reactions, my determinations, my choices, my discernment. Whatever those have been (conditioned by all my faults, of course), they are thanks largely to ideas I’ve come across in great works — to the extent that I sometimes have that feeling, “What if I hadn’t found this book at just that moment when my mind reached for answers? What would my intellect be without the clarity they gave me?”
Some of these are the books that come up in conversation (and blog posts) often, although some are on the bookshelf, and it’s only when I’m dusting them that I remember with gratitude what I learned.
They are markers when I meet someone who becomes a kindred spirit. When it turns out that she has read one of these books or he exclaims when he sees it on the shelf, then we — The Chief and I — know that we can safely allude to the contents in passing, leaping over the necessity for explanation, confident that our intellectual, moral, and spiritual shorthand will be understood. That in itself is a great gift — the delight and joy of sharing a body of reading with others, with, of course, the ancillary joy of discovering those books they love that we haven’t seen yet.