Book Review: A Velocity of Being (Letters to a Young Reader)

Some books, you just know you may never want to part with. Ever.

This is one of those books. A Velocity of Being (Letters to a Young Reader) featured dozens of letters written by adults of all walks of life — musicians, writers, poets, media makers, business people, etc. Edited by the wonderfully talented Maria Popova (of Brain Pickings) and Claudia Bedrick, this book is just one gem after another … turn the page and you can’t stop reading.

As Povova writes, the book is …

a collection of original letters to the children of today and tomorrow about why we read and what books do for the human spirit, composed by 121 of the most interesting and inspiring humans in our world: Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Alain de Botton, James Gleick, Anne Lamott, Diane Ackerman, Judy Blume, Eve Ensler, David Byrne, Sylvia Earle, Richard Branson, Daniel Handler, Marina Abramović, Regina Spektor, Elizabeth Alexander, Adam Gopnik, Debbie Millman, Dani Shapiro, Tim Ferriss, Ann Patchett, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more immensely accomplished and largehearted artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading. — via Brain Pickings

The format caught my eye early on, via Brain Pickings website (which I read regularly and periodically support), where Popova has written about the book’s progress over the last year or two (after working on it for eight years, I guess). To secure dozens of writers and then to secure dozens of illustrators (the art is as fabulous as the letters — see this post to see some of the illustrations), and then to gather them all up into a book that could only be described itself as a work of art … well, that has my attention in the days of digital books. This is one book you need to hold in your hands.

As someone who shares out “small quotes” each morning from books I am reading over at Mastodon, A Velocity of Being has fueled enough mornings for a month or two, and maybe more. Every page seems to have some sentence, some passage, some ideas that rings out for me.

The question is: will young readers read it?

That question has me thinking. I have about 75 sixth grade students. I can’t buy them each this book. (I’m a public school teacher). But what if I made a copy of a page for each student — thinking about what I know of them as readers and making as best a match as possible — before the end of the school year — a letter to a young reader that gets into the hands of a young reader? I like that possibility.

Hmmm …

Peace (read it over and over and over),


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