I’ve been a big John Scalzi fan ever since reading his collection of essays on writing, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to the Coffee Shop. As a librarian, I’m an even bigger fan after reading his essay “A Self-Made Man Looks at How He Made It.”
Scalzi, who is the author of eight novels (including the Hugo Award nominee Old Man’s War), writes about how his success is in direct relation to all the help he received along the way, from the food stamps, free lunches and public schooling of his youth to the scholarships and grants that helped get him through college. Not surprisingly, he includes the public library in his list of societal goods:
“Not having to wonder how I was going to eat meant my attention could be given to other things, like reading wonderful books. As a child, many of the books I read and loved came from the local libraries where I lived. I can still remember going into a library for the first time and being amazed — utterly amazed — that I could read any book I wanted and that I could even take some of them home, as long as I promised to give each of them back in time. I learned my love of science and story in libraries. I know now that each of those libraries were paid for by the people who lived in the cities the libraries were in, and sometimes by the states they were in as well. I owe the taxpayers of each for the love of books and words.”
The entire piece is here — it’s really an eloquent and grateful meditation on generosity, whether it’s in the form of paying taxes to continue social programs or extending oneself to help a complete stranger, and how those actions have far-reaching consequences. Wonderful, thought-provoking stuff.