I am enjoying reading the short stories of Louis L’Amour (1908-1988). He wrote a memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, about his early life finding work through the Depression in the West and on ships that travelled to the Orient. Wherever he found himself he read voraciously. The book includes his reading lists for 1930 through 1937. They cover all sorts of genre from history of ancient civilizations, poetry, plays, pioneer diaries, philosophy, psychology, and novels. Daniel Boorstein, former Librarian of Congress wrote the Introduction entitled, Joys of Random Reading. He described Louis L’Amour’s study with its sixteen-foot-high ceiling with walls of specially designed bookshelves. Each tall row of shelves made a kind of book-covered door that could be swung open to reveal another sixteen-foot set of book-filled shelves fixed to the wall behind. He commented that Louis was blessed with an insatiable literary appetite. He had a natural preference for books that had stood the test of time.
L’Amour’s philosophy of life can be summed up in the following musing:
“I think the greatest gift anyone can give to another is the desire to know, to understand. Life is not for simply watching spectator sports, or for taking part in them; it is not for simply living from one working day to the next. Life is for delving, discovering, learning. Today, one can sit in the comfort of his own home and explore any part of the world or even outer space through books. They are all around us, offering such riches as can scarcely be believed.”
He does not have much patience with people who do not read, and who do not have a thirst for knowledge of people and places.
“Often I hear people say that they do not have time to read. That’s absolute nonsense. In the one year during which I kept that kind of record, I read twenty-five books while waiting for people. In offices, applying for jobs, waiting to see a dentist, waiting in a restaurant for friends, many such places. I read on buses, trains, and planes. If one really wants to learn, one has to decide what is important. Spending an evening on the town? Attending a ball game? Or learning something that can be with you your life long?…. A great book begins with an idea; a great life, with a determination. My life may not be great to others, but to me it has been one of steady progression, never dull, often exciting, often hungry, tired, and lonely, but always learning….Somewhere along the line I had fallen in love with learning, and it became a lifelong romance. Early on I discovered it was fun to follow along the byways of history to find those treasures that await any searcher.”
I can echo L’Amour’s sentiments. From childhood I have devoured books and they have introduced me to ideas, people and places that have enthralled me and made me the man that I am. I have passed on this love for books to my two daughters. My wife has her own love for books and possesses a fine library of her own in her study. What about you?