Color photograph of Helen Keller seated in front of a window. She is reading a book in braille, 1960.

Helen Keller was a voracious reader. She describes her love of reading in her second autobiography entitled Midstream, published in 1929.

"More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free. Books are my compensation for the harms of fate. They give me a world for a lost world, and for mortals who have disappointed me they give me gods.

I cannot take space to name here all the books that have enriched my life, but there are a few that I cannot pass over. The one I have read most is the Bible. I have read and reread it until in many parts the pages have faded out—I mean, my fingers have rubbed off the dots, and I must supply whole verses from memory, especially the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Gospels. To the Bible I always go for confidence when waves of doubt rush over me and no voice is near to reassure me.

...It was while I was still a little girl that I made the acquaintance of three great American writers who are inseparably linked in my mind. All three opened for me magic windows through which I still look upon the universe and find it “many splendoured (sic.)." I mean Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Of the three Whitman is my best beloved. He has been an inspiration to me in a very special way. I began to read his poetry years ago at a time when I was overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and self-doubt. It was when I read "The Song of the Open Road" that my spirit leaped up to meet him. For me his verses have the quality of exquisite physical sensations. They wave like flowers, they quiver like fountains, or rush on like mountain torrents. He sings unconquerable life. He is in the middle of the stream. He marches with the world's thought, not against it. To me he seems incomparably our best poet."

Image: Helen Keller sitting and reading a book in braille, American Foundation for the Blind, Helen Keller Archives.

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