By Megan Shepherd
After university, I joined the US Peace Corps and was sent to a tiny village in Senegal for two years to work with school children. The village had no electricity or indoor plumbing, and involved a hike through the desert to get there. Needless to say, there were no bookstores or libraries. So every time I went to my region’s capital town I would visit the Peace Corps office and stock up on books from our unofficial library. I’d forgo useful things like canned goods or batteries so I could fit more books in my backpack.
Temperatures in Senegal were regularly over 100 F, which meant that for the hottest part of the day, my village farmers would pack up their tools and sit under a mango tree for five or six hours until it was cool enough to work again. I adopted the same schedule, and used that time to read. I averaged two or three books a week, often hefty volumes and classics. I was fascinated by living in this tiny remote village and reading about all different places and times. I was hooked.
When I came back to the US, my addiction for books didn’t go away. I kept wanting to read a book every few days, and found myself in bookstores during lunch breaks and weekends, greedily looking over the titles, buying more than I should have but unable to quit. Now, years later, every room in my house is packed with books. I don’t feel guilty buying books anymore, because I know it’s supporting fellow authors. I’m just running out of shelf space!