"All knowledge is the growth and true understanding of experience and all skill is the application of that knowledge to the world around you. It doesn't come from books, but the content of the books we read can often be of greater relevance to us and have a greater impact upon our lives at any particular time.
My mother used to tell me, 'Billy, as important as education is, it's of no earthly use if it doesn't help you put food on the table and all the learning in the world isn't worth a jot if it doesn't make you a better person who is able to put it to good use.'
There have been a number of books that have had a great impact on my life for the better. Perhaps the most important one was 'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo. This book taught me that it was possible for a person stolen from to overlook the theft and to reinvest trust in the thief, who then goes on to make a good life for himself and family while becoming an important citizen in the community. I was reading this book at precisely the time when I stole from Mr Northrop the greengrocer and instead of reporting me to my parents and the police, he gave me a part-time job. I never stole again.
The next book to inspire me was one that I picked up in an old book shop called 'The Town that was Murdered: the life story of Jarrow' by Ellen Wilkinson. This came into my life at a time when I was deeply into trade unionship and it revealed how 'capitalism' robbed the people of their modest lives and the right to work in the docks.
I crossed the Atlantic heading for Canada in 1963 reading, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. It was at the height of racism in America. The book tells the story of lawyer Atticus Finch who attempts to break down the race barrier in his county by defending an innocent man who has been wrongly imprisoned because of racial prejudice.
The next book to impact upon my life was 'The Power of Positive Thinking' by Norman Vincent Peale. When I read this book, the pages echoed what I had always felt to be true; namely 'that there is nothing that is either good or bad in this world that thinking it so will not make it so.' I was into cognitive thinking methods at the time and much of the book's content mirrored my own thoughts.
Now, the above mentioned books, despite their content, were of great use to me at the time of reading them, not because they revealed something of great importance that I didn't know, but because they were effectively being read by me at a time in my life when their content would have the greatest impact on my life and because they reflected views and attitudes I believed to be true.They essentially reinforced what I was doing at the time, the way I was doing it and why.
These books were not telling me anything new; they were merely making louder the echoes of my own soul; very much like the advice that a friend gives you that you want to hear. I do believe that in everyone's lifetime we will come across the thoughts and words of another that echoes our own soul also and that when they do, we will usualy finish up marrying them or becoming lifelong friends." William Forde: March 13th, 2015.