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The World is Just a Book Away

Edited by James J. Owens & Illustrated by Ryane Acalin

The World is Just a Book Away is an anthology edited by USC professor James J. Owens that captures the stories of how books and reading inspired some of the world s most prominent people. Recognizing the life-changing nature of reading, Owens set out in 2002 to create this deeply moving book.


At first glance, the sixty contributors to this anthology may not seem to have much in common yet they all share their personal love of books and reading in The World is Just a Book Away. This book takes readers on a unique journey through personal stories from five Nobel Peace Prize laureates, actors, royalty, world leaders, scientists, humanitarians, and many more.

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Buzz Aldrin

"Throughout the years, I have been marked by the words and books of many great authors.”


Her Majesty Queen Noor

Al Hussein of Jordan

"I have observed on countless occasions how hope and a sense of purpose propagate even in the harshest climate of war, poverty, catastrophe, and prejudice."


Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa

"Obsessed with wanting to crack the code, I reread the book looking for some clue."


Rafael Amargo

"Just as I must breathe and I must eat to dance, so too must I read."


Anousheh Ansari

"I would live through the lives of heroes and heroines such as Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie in books, and dream of visiting far off places—even the stars."


Lauren Bacall

"I had never been in a play that was written by a poet, and the prospect filled me with wonder."


Dr. Keith Black

"I felt excitement and clarity about what I wanted to do in my life that was, in hindsight, astonishing given my relative youth when I read the book."


T. C. Boyle

"There is a wild uncontainable genius in these stories."


Gabriel Byrne

"Those early books made me realize that there was another world—a world outside my own—an exotic, exciting and safe world I could travel to whenever I opened a book."


General Wesley K. Clark

"It is a book strong enough to change the way we perceive the world."


His Holiness the

Dalai Lama

"When I am reading I am often reminded of the great kindness of the scholars and translators of the past.”


Shobhaa Dé

"I don’t regret smoking awful cigarettes inside shabby local cafes and imagining I was Simone de Beauvoir."


Shirin Ebadi

"People might be surprised to learn that I have found great inspiration in the autobiography of an American cyclist."


Daniel Ellsberg

“I would be happy if the words I read aloud that morning in 2004, after my own short night in jail, reached hearts of some young listeners and changed their lives as they had mine, a quarter-century earlier.”


Jane Fonda

"It showed me that transformation was possible…even for me."


Frank Gehry

"I’ve always wanted to learn, to enjoy the trip to the party as much as the party itself, and Proust opened this insight about living in the moment for me at a late age."


Miep Gies

"When I read the last word, I didn’t feel the pain I’d anticipated. I was glad I’d read it at last.”


Dr. Jane Goodall

"Sometimes I don’t know how the ceilings stand the weight of all those books, but I wouldn’t change it for the world."


President Mikhail Gorbachev

"The Russian classics teach us to think, to observe reality, to value humanity, and to be humane."


Nasrine Gross

"Imagine how much sustenance that book and so many others could have provided for these people during their darkest hours."


Marie Elizabeth Haist

"Queen Mimi"

"I am ninety-one years old as I write this, but I am still young at heart and I can tell you that fairy tales really can come true."


Senator Gary Hart

"Over the years, a lot of my reading has tended toward the confluence of the religious and the spiritual and the social and the political. Writings that have met at those crossroads have always been important to me."


Ethan Hawke

"The Lord of the Rings was always a meeting place for my father and me when all other means to communicate had left us."


Henry Jaglom

"Holden somehow holds on to some strong corner of my inner being, more than a half century after I first met him."


Senator Edward M. Kennedy

"I reread the final sentences of his book and I am reminded of him and his challenge to strive for the quality he admired most—courage."


Taoiseach Enda Kenny

"And so his role in the creation of the very fabric of modern Ireland is very clear."


Irvin Kershner

"I have never lost the thrill of escaping into a new book and thereby embarking upon a new adventure."


Riz Khan

"In many ways, I have spent my life caught between cultures."



Jeane J. Kirkpatrick

"By the time I was six, reading was my principle activity."


Jude Law

"I read it at an age when children become adolescents, who want to become adults, and I distinctly remember feeling that I could start reading the books my parents read."


Norman Lear

"My life without books would be like my life without clothes—naked."


Lisa Ling

"It challenges readers to push their boundaries and take risks; to not be satisfied with being ordinary—to be extraordinary."


Yo-Yo Ma

"In an effort to be more like him, I began to look at my world through detective eyes."


Wilma Mankiller

"The book, by telling the individual story of a family in a community, and placing it in a historical and community context, made everything crystal clear to me."


Juan N. Silva Meza

"The novel offers us a great constitutional lesson."


Jenny J. Ming

"I believe that books travel with us through life."


Liam Neeson

"He looks at a river and thinks, “Shall I cast my line here or shall I cast it there?” Just in that decision he seems to describe the state of the human soul."


George Olah

"In fact, I thought little of science before entering university, when I fell in love with chemistry, and who can explain how love happens?"


Fess Parker

"I feel strongly that conclusions drawn relative to the history of our country are incomplete until you have been exposed in detail to the time, energy, money, and blood expended in the name of that history.”


Mark Prior

"At times, it was hard for me to understand why they insisted that I wouldn’t be able to go to baseball practice or play in a game if I didn’t finish my homework or do well in school."


Aidan Quinn

"I felt validated. I was ecstatic. I was alive and I couldn’t wait to share it.”


Vanessa Redgrave

"Perhaps this story also gave me hope."


Governor Bill Richardson

"The book mesmerized me both in a historical and literary sense.”


Natasha Richardson

"When I read that book it was as if the scales fell from my eyes; it was as if I’d been given the golden key to the door."


Carter Roberts

"I believe that imagination and persistence are the most important traits we bring to our work, because we must have the ability to imagine the world differently.”


F. Sherwood Rowland

"My most enduring non-professional interest, however, has been in both factual history and historical fiction and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve gone back further in time."


Susan Sarandon

"Is it possible in your heart to believe that a person is more than the worst thing he does?"


Martin Scorsese

"At other times, he gives us an adventure novel. Then, a patch of philosophizing. Then, a little documentary about how things work."


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

"When knowledge lodges in one’s intellect as one’s own experience, it becomes living wisdom."


Eunice Kennedy Shriver

"She changed the attitudes of the world with regard to the poor, the dying and the ill. She, more than any other figure in history, showed the power of love put into action."


Senator Alan K. Simpson

"If you are only interested in the life of politics, it is a barbaric existence. I also need art, music, and books."


Sharon Stone

"The re-finding of this and several other books was a re-finding of myself."


Raageshwari Loomba Swaroop

"I experienced gratitude in a most powerful, miraculous way."


Robert Towne

"In this beautiful book, there are so many stories of heroic lives lived, of matchless devotion, and enduring loyalty and love."


Lily Tuck

"My life as a child was fairly solitary—hard to make friends if you cannot communicate—but it was not unhappy. I had books."


Ted Turner

"I felt that I was getting a double lesson: The history of ancient Greece and the history of our government in the United States."



Desmond Tutu

"He let me consume comics omnivorously because he realized that it would help to instill a love of reading.”


Bruce Weber

"In fact, books have always played counterpoints to my pictures.”


Simon Wiesenthal

"Each of us thought of the tragedies without number that this damp cellar bespoke, of the pious men and women from whom these holy books had been taken."


Muhammad Yunus

"We had a hunger to create our own world and books provided that world."

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