Read (and get choked up over) the last thing Ray Bradbury wrote

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Dec 17, 2012

On June 5, we lost one of the most cherished writers of genre fiction. Ray Bradbury, who brought us The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and, of course, Fahrenheit 451, has said everything he will ever say. Except one more thing ...

There's one last essay, and it's been confirmed that it was the last thing Bradbury ever wrote. What's it about? Well, books, of course. The transformative power of books.

Excerpted from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, Bradbury's last essay will, we hope, inspire everyone who reads it to pick up a book, any book, really, and live in it for a while.

"When I was seven years old, I started going to the library and I took out ten books a week. The librarian looked at me and asked, "What are you doing?"

I said, "What do you mean?"

And she said, "You can't possibly read all of those before they are due back."

I said, "Yes, I can."

And I came back the next week for ten more books.

In doing so, I told that librarian, politely, to get out of my way and let me happen. That's what books do. They are the building blocks, the DNA, if you will, of you.

Think of everything you have ever read, everything you have ever learned from holding a book in your hands and how that knowledge shaped you and made you who you are today.

Looking back now on all those years, to when I first discovered books at the library, I see that I was simply falling in love. Day, after day, after glorious day, I was falling in love with books.

The library in Waukegan, Illinois, the town where I grew up, was a temple to the imagination. It was built by Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist, who built libraries all across this great land. I learned to read by studying the comic strips in the Chicago Tribune. But I fell in love with reading at that old Carnegie library. It was this library that served as the inspiration for the library in my 1962 novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

I will never forget the many magnificent autumn nights, running home with books in my hands and the October winds driving me home towards discovery. I found books on Egypt and dinosaurs, books about pirates, and books that took me to the stars.

I clearly remember checking out books on physiology, books that described what human beings were like, what their bodies were like, what the veins were like, what the feet were like, what the head was like, what the heart was like. So I learned about the physiology of humans from books when I was just a child. And I was curious about all the animals of the world, too. I couldn't believe that God had created so many species. Of course, in many ways, one of the most miraculous creatures of all is the butterfly. They fascinated me as a child. When I read about butterflies, I realized that they are a metaphor for the totality of the universe. How is any of this possible? How did any of this happen? From the formation of a galaxy to the wings of a monarch! No one truly knows the answers. It is all such a great mystery."

For the full essay, head on over to The Huffington Post.