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During a summer when I was in high school, on a warm Sunday afternoon, I complained to my mother that I was bored. She gave me a puzzled look, pointed to the bookcases-we had two in the living room-and then said. “How can you be bored?” I was 16, and at 16 no teen wants to be outsmarted by their mother. She turned away to return to the work she had in her small office that was out kitchen.
My grumpiness did not abate. That’s when I heard a little voice that said, “Why don’t you pick me up?” What? Who was that talking? I glanced at the bookcase. Silence. I turned back to see my mother working on documents she had spread across the kitchen table. “Oh, don’t be so stubborn,” the little voice said. “Come over here, and just touch me.” Okay, I thought, whoever you are, I call your bluff. I turned my head to the side so that I could read the titles of the middle shelf. One struck me as weird because it was a dichotomy. War and Peace. The author’s name was Leo Tolstoi. I reached out and picked it up. I opened it. I began to read.