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Book Review

Book Review: 'A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader'


“Books saved my life.”

“Reading takes apart your world and expectations and rearranges them.”

“Reading is not antisocial but the most social act we can imagine, inviting us to see, hear, feel, taste, smell someone else's life from the inside.”

“It’s lovely to read in the bathtub.”

These are claims by some of the contributors to Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Writer Maria Popova and publisher Claudia Bedrick spent eight years collecting 121 letters comprising this love affair to reading. Contributors include musician Yo-Yo Ma, writers Jacqueline Woodson and Susan Orlean, poet Mary Oliver, and scientist James Gleick along with an array of professors, art directors, book critics, actors and playwrights. The volume explodes with knowledge and great writing articulating the range of experiences had by readers.

Accompanying the letters are brilliant illustrations inspired by the act of reading by artists such as book designer Chip Kidd, book illustrators Jon Klassen, Sergio Ruzzier, and Maira Kalman, cartoonists Roz Chast and Art Spiegelman, and Wichitan Grant Snider.

Turning the pages, I didn’t know what to do first; be seduced by the illustrations to the point I ignore the letters, or be methodical and read each letter, then look at the accompanying illustration?

I chose the former.

While I think the success of this project lies in the combination of the two, the illustrations are the propellant.

That said, here is one last quote by Steve Heller: “Books are weapons in humankind’s battle against ignorance... Read them, savor them, protect them.”