RB65: A Life Well Read

In March, Books for Keeps collaborated with Rabbit Box to present, “A Life Well Read.” Emcee Rachel Watkins called it a “match made in heaven,” noting that a good story can, “change your life; it can teach you empathy. It can give you direction and give you purpose.” Eight bibliophiles took the stage to tell stories about how books – or one particular book, changed their lives.

When Wallace Arnold had to go to a new school, he latched on to reading lists as a lifeline. In middle school he became even more of a bookworm. During the long, awkward years of adolescence, books were his refuge, solace, and eventually a doorway into being social.

On Ashley McKelvy‘s first day of college, she felt certain she would drop out. A professor’s joke went right over her head. But she’s a “fear-based” person, and motivated by fear, she began to read. A boring, arcane book gave her more confidence and became an unexpected guide past the barriers she encountered along the way.

Benjamin Milano Albino remembers learning to read in Puerto Rico when he was five years old. Even then, the poet recalls, he “dealt in metaphors.” Over time he realized that “the more a person reads; the better writer a person becomes.”

In high school Ashley Garrett, a budding Anglophile, was very excited to take her first British literature class. Unfortunately her teacher, on the verge of retirement, was phoning in the lessons. Ashley forged ahead, reading the thick book on her own, but that turned out to have at least one unanticipated disadvantage.

Kristy Moran was the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the evening. She credits books with getting her through an “awkward phase that lasted four years.”

As a child John Mincemoyer had a rough time growing up in a military family with an abusive stepfather. John credits his love of words and books as among the greatest joys of life — and reading reading reading saw him through the darkest times.

Leslie Hale, who is now the executive director of Books for Keeps, was the type of girl to wear her heart on her sleeve. After hurting someone in a difficult breakup, though, she thought she would “play it cool” for a while. But then she met an especially neat guy. A book she came across seemed to capture just the right tone to convey her feelings, but was it too risky a vehicle to rely on to put herself out there?

Angie Pendley was the first person in her family to go to college. She started out as a theater major, then switched to education, and — years later — became a librarian. But her vocation actually started in first grade, in her closet, where she ran “Angie’s Library.”