A letter to a young reader

Couldn’t help but steal a piece from this marvelous Brain Pickings’ post. Maria Popova shares a letter by Alain de Botton to young readers from a compendium of more than a hundred such letters to children. Written by some of the most inspiring people on the planet, these letters illuminate on why we read and how books have been transformative to their lives.

Check out A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Humans in Our World. It took her 8 years to get this out in the world and having been a fan of her work, I can confidently say the book is going to be an experience for you. Even if you’re well past the ‘young reader’ age.

Now over to Alain de botton:

Dear Reader,

We wouldn’t need books quite so much if everyone around us understood us well. But they don’t. Even those who love us get us wrong.

They tell us who we are but miss things out. They claim to know what we need, but forget to ask us properly first. They can’t understand what we feel — and sometimes, we’re unable to tell them, because we don’t really understand it ourselves.

That’s where books come in. They explain us to ourselves and to others, and make us feel less strange, less isolated and less alone. We might have lots of good friends, but even with the best friends in the world, there are things that no one quite gets.

That’s the moment to turn to books. They are friends waiting for us any time we want them, and they will always speak honestly to us about what really matters. They are the perfect cure for loneliness.

They can be our very closest friends.


Note: the original version of this letter was one big paragraph that I had to re-read twice to understand fully. So, I broke down the letter into chunks of paragraphs that are easier to read for those in a hurry.
Alain de Botton’s Lovely Letter to Children About Why We Read

If reading this made you curious about Alain, you should definitely check out this talk by him. It’s on Love. And it’s an interesting take.

Alain de Botton on Love
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