The idea of books as shaping tools came to me from an image of artists’ modeling tools: carving wood, sculpting clay, honing metal into works of art. But I’ve recently come across it in terms of how we use technology, as in this quote by Father John Culkin, “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”
I like that.
Books certainly shape their readers. We behold them as a tools to open new worlds to us, and they in turn shape us in how we interpret our immediate world. And it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg proposition. We chose what to read based both on our life experiences and what life puts before us as reading material. Reading can reinforce our world view or challenge it, but it rarely leaves a neutral imprint.
I have chosen five books that shaped the person I am at my core, books I still have on my shelves even though decades divide when I first encountered them and now. You’ll find my five books on my menu, from left to right, in the order in which I first read them. The fact that they have survived being weeded from my personal collection despite many moves across multiple states stands as testament to their lasting value in my mind.