CHAPTER 10: The Fertile Page vs. The Unfertile Page

A short excerpt from Chapter 10…

On a few memorable occasions during high school, I was able to convince my mother that I would learn more if she allowed me to stay home and read.  The first time she agreed, I felt as if I had been allowed last-minute passage on a sailing ship that would take me away from yet another mostly monotonous day at school.  Better yet, I had the house, which was never quiet, all to myself, so that I could read undisturbed and escape into the pages of the thick historical novel I was reading.

I was a voracious reader and had been ever since I found what I considered to be one of the best things about moving to California: the public library.  Housed in an old two story stone building on downtown Napa’s Main Street, I learned quickly that it contained the world.  This is where I could find the complete answers to my questions, which adults seemed to only want to answer in parts.  I could find out about people in other parts of the world, which comforted me as an outsider.  I could find out about other places, which sparked my imagination and gave me ideas for my own future.  I felt far less lonely in the world when I thought of all of those books waiting for me on shelves at the public library.

I wasn’t pulling my mother’s leg when I told her I would learn more staying at home with my book.  The sad truth was that most of my classes at school were rather dull and the textbooks we were assigned to read seemed to be authored by passionless drones with no point of view.  To convince my mother the first time I asked her if I could stay home and read, I prepared a passionate summary of what I had learned so far from reading Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War.  I must have been quite convincing, as this was not the only time she acquiesced.  She couldn’t help but see that it was reading thick novels that stirred my passion for learning.  This is what fertile pages do — and what unfertile pages don’t.

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