I was a big reader growing up, and I lived the life of the mind for many years.
Books mattered more, did more to excite and inspire me, than any other influence. My parents and teachers were very important, of course, but books left the memories that loomed the largest, taught the best lessons, remained most vivid. Whether it was biography or Dickens or the work of great photographers, the content of books taught me about the world and opened doors behind which lay whole realms of knowledge.
I wanted to live the life of the mind when I was in my twenties. Ironically, I didn’t know enough about myself or the real world to manage it. There’s a knack to staying in that happy cocoon. Today, when I look at a wall of books, I have warm and cold feelings. The warmth comes from learning, the cold from the neverendingness of knowledge.
P.S. A new biography of Dickens has come out, by the way.