My parents were avid readers, for which I am very grateful. I have loved reading from an early age, thanks to strong encouragement in my household. We had books everywhere, and I relished those mornings my dad would take a grocery sack full of books (or two!) to the used book store, where we would often times come back with more books than we had traded in. Books have allowed me the privilege of traveling around the world to lands both real and imagined, and to soar through the skies and into the cosmos.
I have been to the far corners of the world, sailed the seven seas, been to every continent and traveled beneath the waves as well as upon them, all thanks to books. My journeys have taken me to the skies and to distant worlds across the galaxy, all without having to step one foot out of my living room.
Thanks to books I have learned what it is like to sail under the White-Jacket upon an American Navy Man-o-War in the 1800s, as well as what the world of a whaler named Ishmael was like. I learned of a substance named Spice, found on a desert planet named Dune, and about stil-suits, without which Fremen could not survive the arid climate on that desert world.
I have entered the magical world of Middle Earth, where I discovered that in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, named Bilbo Baggins. I’ve learned about rings of power, traveled with dwarves into mines, consorted with elves, men, hobbits, and wizards, and seen what the power of friendship and love can do in the face of hate and evil.
I happened to Catch-22, and learned that it’s the best catch there is. It is so good that people will know what you are talking about when you mention you are in a Catch-22 situation, even if they never read the book. I have witnessed the ugliness in the world of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and been shocked by the evil of plantation owners puffing themselves up with Bible verses.
I have been to the legendary American West, and travelled all the way from Lonesome Dove to Montana, through a plains world that no longer exists but which was so brilliantly brought to life by Larry McMurtry. And speaking of Texas, I have visited that state when Michener was spinning out his tale of Texas, and I have visited Texasville as well, several times. I was born in Texas in 1966 and left when I was about 3, but books take me back there now and again.
I’ve journeyed up the Mississippi with famed waterman Mark Twain, in the company of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and I journeyed out west to California, where I heard tell of a “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County.” And I love Twain’s observation that “there are two things one should never see being made-sausage and politics.”
I have seen the American Civil War continued into the wars on the plains, and read of the achievements of Custer and of Sitting Bull. I understand that everyone who died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was American. I have followed our soldiers to battle from the American Revolution to the present day. I took a little trip With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, perhaps one of the finest and most powerful war memoirs ever published.
And I have been taken into the Twin Towers and the world of terror that came crashing down on September 11, 2001. I have followed soldier’s footsteps as they took the battle to the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have been in the trenches of World War 1, through the seemingly endless horrors, and then at last, when it finally became All Quiet on the Western Front.
I have adventured with Allan Quartermain in the deeps of Africa, and witnessed the horror of the Heart of Darkness. I have sailed the seven seas and visited Treasure Island and I journeyed beneath the waves with Captain Nemo and his crew. I have followed a shark around Amityville and seen what a white whale can do.
And I have opened that enchanted door in the closet, leading to the magical world of Narnia. I’ve paid my tolls at a Phantom Tollbooth, and been whisked away to the world of Pern, filled with dragons and thread. I have experienced the wonders of discovery, finding planets real and imagined, all thanks to the wonderful world of books.
I have been to all of these places, seen all of these things, and learned so much more from all of the books I have read and continue to read. Each book that I read and enjoy is one more link to my parents, who passed on to me their own love of reading. I continue to relish reading and look forward to taking my next journey, wherever it may lead, one page at a time.
© 2015 Ken Klemm