I was a precocious reader. My grandmother, who was going blind as she aged, taught me to read at age two so I could read her King James Bible to her. The beauty of that rhetoric set the standards for the rest of my life’s reading.
Because I was an advanced reader by the time I entered grade school, my teachers would give me copies of their favorite books to take home and read. The book that caught my imagination and held it was Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, which I first read as an eight-year-old. I have re-read it every year since then, fifty times, though I steadfastly refuse to go see Les Miz.
When I was young the book fascinated me with its story of the poor man who stole to feed a child and the priest who lied because he believed in the goodness of humanity. As I grew older, I learned about the French historical period it portrayed. Older still, I came to love its style and rhetorical power. Now, even older, I return with awe to the story of the poor man and the priest. If one has a life list of books, Les Misérables tops mine.