Ever since learning how to read, it has been my favorite thing to do. Bored? Find an excellent mystery and spend the next ten to twelve hours wrapped up in intrigue. Find an autobiography? Enjoy immersing yourself in the minutiae of another’s life and letters. Classic? Soak it up and imagine all the lives of the people that read it before you.
Speaking of classics, for about the past decade and a half, my absolute favorite book is East of Eden. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve recommended it to, how many times I’ve read and reread it, and I’ve also lost count of how many times I’ve seen it skipped over in favor of Grapes of Wrath. Sure, as far as I’m concerned Steinbeck does not have a bad book, but I really think the argument can be made for East of Eden being his best. Judge for yourself; this is the epigraph:
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, ‘Why don’t you make something for me?’
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, ‘A box.’
‘To put things in.’
‘Whatever you have,’ you said.
Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad or evil thoughts and good thoughts – the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you. And still the box is not full.
It is, hands down, the most amazing epigraph I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot.) If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you go out and find a copy. If you have read it, you should join me and reread it for the tenth or twelfth time. Happiness is learning from the greats and I can say without a doubt that there’s a lot to learn from Steinbeck.