Discovering Books

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Richard Selzer / Discuss how reading books changes my life
Richard Wright, in his essay "Discovering Books," explains how reading books changed his outlook on life and eventually his life itself. The first book that widened his horizons was an overtly controversial book by H. L. Mencken. I have a story not so dissimilar from his.

Coming out of High School, I had in my possession the perspective that I knew everything. So I started, straight off the bat, working in a variety of menial jobs, which would have lead me to a dead end, for as the good jobs in today's society required college degrees. So, after working for two years with a white-collar full of frustration, I decided it was time to take matters into my own ink-stained, carpal tunnel syndrome-stricken hands. I immediately gave my two-weeks notice, and pontificated about going to college.

Headed along the yellow brick road towards the registration office, I was intercepted by my malevolent manager, the "Ineffable John" as he was called by my fellow co-workers, and he said unto me, "Michael, you don't want to go to college, stay here and you shall have bestowed upon your unworthy head all which you need to know. Here, fill up my coffee cup." With his words still echoing in my mind, I wanted to sprint down the hallway, pole-vault over the cubicle prisons, hurdle the water ration cooler, and dive through the double-paned sliding glass doors. This spectacular display of athletic ability would have been terrific, but the ball and chain still shackled to my ankles would have slightly hindered my escape.

One week after my pre-resignation notice and John's wise words of discouragement, my manager's secretary, Mary, who just had a baby earlier that day but wouldn't take unpaid sick leave, approached me and said, "Don't listen to John, college is a sure ticket to get out of this galley, otherwise you'll end up having a baby and coming to work on the...
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