As the only girl growing up among three brothers, I was always afraid of being excluded. If there was a game to be played, a sport to be learned, a competition to join, I was on my feet and ready. I didn't spend much time alone for fear that I'd miss out. Reading was a chore to get over with—homework to rush through. I rationalized this approach as a wonderful thing: I never had time to read because I was actively living my life, not sitting inside reading about other people's lives.
It wasn't till I was a freshman in college that I slowly began to realize that I was indeed missing out, but that it was reading I was missing out on. I was on my own at Wellesley, surrounded by a lot of young women who were motivated and intellectually curious. I started to read because I was required to do so for class, but I soon found myself enjoying the seclusion of the library. I came to see reading as an important way to learn about people, including myself. I could identify with and understand fictional characters and historical figures through their choices, their life circumstances, and their pain.
Today I still feel like the most illiterate person ever to have roamed the campuses of Wellesley and Harvard, where I later transferred. I remain intimidated by all the books I haven't read, but over the years I've come to realize that being a student is a lifelong adventure. I no longer worry that while I'm reading, I may be missing something more important.
What's on Elisabeth Shue's Bookshelf? Read more!
From the March 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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