Essay – Books of Joy

I am a 58 year old white male doing 20 flat years in a Louisiana prison. I came from a very dysfunctional home in Kentucky. I started out life more or less as a functional illiterate child with very little education. Somehow, I did manage to get a 8th grade education. It was years later that I realized that I need more education in order to survive in the “real world”. I learned that having a good education meant having a good job and a place in life itself.

I had a lot of problems learning to read. I found out that being able to read was going to be “a must do” in my life. With reading comes knowledge and with knowledge comes understanding of the world around me. And with that knowledge and understanding comes hopes and dreams. I feel it’s very important to have hopes and dreams. It makes life more enjoyable.

Books have become a very important factor in my life. Books have given me the knowledge to survive in a world filled with unknowns.

A standard Dictionary has given me more joy than any other book I’ve ever read. The dictionary has given me a better understanding of the world around me. Thanks to the dictionary I know thing that were a “big blank” to me at one time in my life. Thanks to a dictionary I can now write (spell) my feelings on paper. I can tell others I know something – I can ask someone in a written letter a question and they will understand what I am trying to say or ask.

Reading has become a very important part of my life. I find a lot more joy in living by having a good book to read. By rule, I read nonfiction books. I like reading about real people. People who have made their mark in life by doing something great.

Needless to say; finding a good book in prison is almost impossible. So having a place like “Prison Book Program,” a place where a prisoner can write, to request reading material of all kinds, is really appreciated by inmates like myself.

And being able to receive this reading material at no cost to the inmate is a great thing also. Most inmates have no money to buy books with. So I’ll always be appreciative of places like the “Prison Book Program”, and the people who donate books and money, so they can send free books to the inmates who are in prison around the country.

-Submitted by Howard R. West
Rayburn Correctional Center, Louisiana