My sister taught me how to read the summer before kindergarten. Not so remarkable for lucky kids these days who have access to academically progressive preschool programs, but in the '70s it marked me as advanced. I still remember the Sunday night my mom got a call at home saying that the next day I would be leaving my first-grade classroom at reading class time to go to the second-grade room for reading.

My daily upgrade in reading class continued throughout gradeschool. After a few years I was joined by a classmate, so I didn't have to make the walk alone.

Today, I don't consider myself an advanced reader. In fact, I don't feel like I read much at all or, as I sometimes say, I don't read anything I don't get paid to read. But I still value reading, books, and the literary life above many other things. I feel it's important to know who's writing what, and why, and what it means. I take comfort in having a lot of books in the house, and a lot of books on my nightstand, and magazines stacked on the coffee table, though they often gather dust.

In grad school, I learned how to write a lot after reading a little, a single sentence or word opening up worlds of possibilities. My papers would have five page introductions. Today, I can still write a lot from a little, mining the flotsam and jetsam of the liberal arts student's mind to join seemingly disparate ideas into something that passes for cohesive thought.

But I'd be happier if I was reading a lot more, too.