My World

Describe the world you come from--for example, your family, community, or school--and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

I grew up surrounded by books. Old and new, cheap paperbacks and ancient hardbacks, crumbling pages bound in leather. When I was little, I would sit in front of the glass-fronted oak cases in our living room and let my eyes trail along endless spines, enchanted by the antiquity and promise of knowledge they all exuded.

My father is a book collector. To him, a used bookstore is the greatest treasure trove in the world. He could spend hours—days, even—wandering the isles, looking for gems. He taught me to love books—not only what they contain, but also their physicality. Their pages, the smell of ink and glue, the covers, whether tattered and old or new and shiny. I grew up with one ever-important rule, repeated over and over again: “Clare, you can read any book in this house, as long as you treat it with respect and love.”

I have. From Austen and Kerouac to astronomy and hermetic magic, I have voraciously absorbed whatever my home’s library had to offer. Supplemented by regular trips to the library to satisfy further cravings, my childhood was a long string of stories, of pages turned and words sounded out and endless learning.

Growing up in a household that holds books in such high regard has profoundly effected my passions and...

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