I am still searching, trying to be a better person...yes, as trite as it sounds, a better man. I have a long ways to go, and will be trying and surely failing until my deathbed. I have had the privilege of being surrounded by loved ones, have had the fortune to attend college, have overall, been very lucky. I find myself a kind and gentle soul, caring and very giving, but honestly, have had the misfortune of never knowing truly what I wanted to do in life (save for public service and for my dreams that I currently have which I share with hardly anyone).
Where am I going with this? I made my way through college and young adulthood. And then years later, I remember thinking when I got into a top-ten business school, that I would surely have an eureka moment with this endeavor – and it wasn’t – and after toiling with politics for a decade in pursuit of a noble calling but not making it – I finally discovered, while in graduate school (long after business school) a love of READING. And more specifically, the good stuff – the classics. Non-fiction was and remains, vital to our society…but empathy and human nature and how I, personally, might figure out how to be a better man with all my glaring faults, through, say the didactic lessons of George Eliot’s Middlemarch or the lessons espoused in Thoreau’s Walden – or the absolute beauty in Frankenstein’s monster that is so insanely beautiful (yet unfortunately washed out by the public persona that exists around that story) – or the lessons espoused by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in his famed Meditations…well that is finally the group in which I learned later in life, to cast a modicum amount of my lot and try and find a moral compass, while enjoying some of the world’s greatest stories and adventures, and having fun along the way.
Enter Everyman’s Library. In my first draft of this intro piece a week or so ago, I didn’t know when I discovered the very first one but mentioned that it was probably Pride & Prejudice during my divorce (it is my ex-wife’s favorite book, so in the turmoil of those years afterward in roughly 2010-11, sad and searching for answers in any way, shape, or form I could get them (and in trying anything to win her back), I went looking for the prettiest copy I could find, found it, and dove in. After a week of subconsciously marinating on this, I am now certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that P&P was my first Everyman’s, the catalyst for my now beloved and growing collection. The story was wonderful, of course, and the Everyman’s Library edition beautiful. I think from this point forward, again, now that I reflect back, I started noticing the format of these books – and as a further testament to my love these books, it was roughly the very moment when I started relishing paperbacks instead of hardbacks, used books instead of new books – I was becoming a true lover of literature, opening my eyes to all that is available beyond the hardback book de jour – And yet, these hardbacks, new and used, still jumped out at me. I was hooked.
Catapult approximately eight years forward and here it is now, 2018: I am by now, an avid collector, having scoured new and used bookstores from small towns in Vermont and New England (and on the web!), to Harvard Square in Massachusetts and down to the treasure trove of bookstores that is New York City; and from there, further south to Philly and Baltimore and a plethora, for sure, found in the nation’s Capitol – and then onward to my very own Virginia, before dipping my toes into the sand, er, bookstores of North Carolina and South Carolina (hello Myrtle Beach and Charleston), all the while working my way even further south to my beloved Savannah with all her squares and bookstores galore.
An observation eight years ago, of something beautiful, which slowly turned into a hobby, has now turned into an absolute passion and is now one of the dear loves of my life – these Everyman’s Library classics. They have opened more doors for me, lead me to authors I would have never heard of, much less read, have inspired me to tackle the absolute greatest works of western literature and have given me a family of characters – of aunts and cousins and uncles and fathers and brothers and mothers and sisters – beyond my wildest dreams ever imagined.
David Campbell – the famed Publisher who resurrected the embattled Everyman’s Library imprint in 1990 after it had long been cast to the dustbin of history save for collectors of the original books – in ruminating about John Dent, the original creator of Everyman’s in 1901, said of Dent’s original intend with the Everyman books: “There was a tremendous sense of self-improvement [during Dent’s time in the early 1900s]…and that reading good books improved the mind and helped people. Everyman was absolutely central to that tradition.”¹
It is in this exact same light, a century later, that I have put my faith in Mr. Campbell’s modern Everyman’s Library editions as a path forward toward a more enriched life. Everyman’s Library has not let me down in this pursuit and continues to open door after door after door for me with every read.
It is simply impossible to read every book worth reading during one’s lifespan – it’s simply an unfortunate factor of pages and time – the math does not work out in our favor. Like too many things in life, one must pick and chose. In my humble opinion, with regard to great literature, as someone who is largely an autodidact with regard to the arts – literature, painting, sculpture, music, and philosophy to name a few – if Everyman’s Library has printed it, you can rest assured it is worth reading.
Thank you for your time and for allowing me the honor of sharing with you something that I am passionate about. Perhaps you will find Everyman’s Library just as inspirational and fulfilling and rewarding as I have.