Thursday, January 10, 2008

This I Believe, ed. by Jay Allison

I just finished listening to the audiobook of This I Believe, a compilation of essays from the NPR show of the same name. People were asked to send in essays of a few hundred words about the principles that guide them. There’s a combination of famous people (Isabel Allende, John McCain, Penn Jillette, Bill Gates), some from the original edition of the show in the 50s (Martha Graham, Jackie Robinson), and a bunch of just regular people who submitted their essays to the website. When I started listening, I was expecting to enjoy the famous people’s essays and zone out during the regular people’s, but I was so wrong. The regular people’s essays are so moving, so inspiring, so clever, and they make some of the famous ones seem like generic high school graduation speeches.

I keep thinking about how important this book is to me now, but also how meaningful it would have been to me at 16 or 17, but in a completely different way, and what a different experience reading it will be for me in ten or twenty more years. I want to buy copies for people I know, because I suspect that this kind of flailing around, trying to get a hold on My Personal Belief System is fairly universal. (I’m sure it’s not everyone, but I’m not entirely convinced I want to be too friendly with people who never change their ideas about anything.)

I’m torn, though – the audiobook is amazing. They actually have all of the writers reading their own essays. Seriously. You can listen to Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Helen Keller. Helen Keller! But the book would give more time to sit and stare off into space after each essay... I think I’d recommend getting the audio if you can, but read it, read it, read it. And give it to a teenager that is trying to figure things out.
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1 comment:

joanna said...

Hi, Laura!! Great review.