You sometimes feel that reading books is the only way you can think, as if the reading occupied one part of your brain and this allowed the other part to go free and become more active. You need that time to read in order to think. That’s all there is to it.

Reading things that are relevant to the facts of your life is of limited value. The facts are, after all, only the facts, and the yearning passionate part of you will not be met there. That is why reading ourselves as a fiction as well as fact is so liberating. The wider we read the freer we become. Emily Dickinson barely left her homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, but when we read ‘My life stood — a loaded gun’ we know we have met an imagination that will detonate life, not decorate it.

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