In 1988, author Robert Fulghum’s collection of essays, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was a New York Times bestseller. It remained a bestseller for nearly two years. The now-famous list of things learned is continually re-printed, updated and posted throughout the internet. Clearly, this was a book that resonated with readers in a way that supported them in maneuvering through the day-to-day experience of living.
More recently, in the New York Times Review of Books President Barack Obama was quoted as saying: “[T]he most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels…”.
This is something that definitely resonates for me. I was fortunate to have great parents from whom I learned about life. In fact, it was my mother who instilled me and my siblings a great love of reading novels. And it is always a wonder to me how much wisdom I’ve found in them. In his NYT interview, Pres. Obama went on to say about novels: “It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that.”
It is easy for me to quote from novels that help me be comfortable in a complicated world full of grays and truth.
For instance, from Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave: “The gods only go with you, when you put yourself in their path.” This, from a novel about young Merlin in 5th century Britain, was encouragement for me, a kid from the South Side of 20th century Chicago, to seek out new adventure and have the courage to go out into the world and explore.