Arts and Culture | High Holidays

Books that made a difference — Phyllis Braun

Phyllis Braun

For me, it isn’t any one book, it is books in general — though I have fond memories of reading all of Louisa May Alcott’s works when I was a girl, despite what I see now as her somewhat overbearing preachiness.

I can still remember being a pre-reader, at once mesmerized and terrified as my first grade teacher turned the pages of a giant “Fun with Dick and Jane,” wondering how I’d ever be able to read myself (back then, kids weren’t expected to be reading by kindergarten). I don’t recall how I got from pre-reader to bookworm, but it happened pretty fast.

I remember the thrill of reading a whole young adult novel in one day, home from school with chicken pox. By third grade I was reading “The Diary of Anne Frank”; it did make quite an impression but I was probably a little too young to completely take it all in.

Nowadays, I joke that my library card is my most prized possession and I feel positively bereft if I don’t have an audio book for the car and at least one “real” book going at home.

Of the books I’ve read in the past few years, one that stands out is “Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant” by Daniel Tammet.Tammet suffered epileptic seizures as a child and at age 25 was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. Tammet also has synethesia, which means he experiences numbers and words visually and emotionally.

I was enthralled by his ability to solve complex equations by seeing their shapes, to learn foreign languages easily, and to perceive the number 4, for example, as quiet and shy. But what truly inspired me was Tammet’s ability, despite his many challenges, to create a rich and fulfilling life, and to share it in this eloquent memoir.

Phyllis Braun is executive editor of the Arizona Jewish Post.