To fling myself into books, to be carried away to another world while being at my most grounded, on my butt or in my bed or favorite chair, is literally how I have survived being here at all. Someone else is doing the living for me, and all I have to do is let their stories, humor, knowledge, and images — some of which I’ll never forget — flow through me, even as I forget to turn off the car when I arrive at my destination. …Plopped in my chair, I get to be elsewhere, immersed in humanity, exclaiming in silence, “Yes, that’s just the way it is,” or “Thank God it’s not that way for me.” I get taken out of myself, and I get to salute all the people and experiences I recognize, with surprise and pleasure. “I so get that, but I never found the words. I know her. I am her.” This reactivates the giddiness muscle, and giddiness leaves you almost no choice but to share, and sharing is what makes us happy.Anne Lamott, from Almost Everything — Notes on Hope P. 64
— James Baldwin
— Carl Sagan
For 99 percent of the tenure of humans on earth, nobody could read or write. The great invention had not yet been made. Except for firsthand experience, almost everything we knew was passed on by word of mouth. As in the children’s game “Telephone,” over tens and hundreds of generations, information would slowly be distorted and lost.
Books changed all that. Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers — the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses.”