Eric Hoffer is a most unusual person. He was born in 1902 in New York City and taught himself to read English and German at the age of five. When he was seven years old, he suddenly and inexplicably went blind (Tomkins, 1968). At the age of 15, he mysteriously recovered his sight and became a voracious reader. Hoffer had no mentor or formal education during his youth or in his adult years, but he had books to read from the public libraries of California. After the death of his father in 1920 (his mother died when he was seven), Hoffer bought a bus ticket to Los Angeles and lived on Skid Row for the next ten years. During this time, he spent his days reading in the Los Angeles Central Library. He has been reading all his life-serious works of philosophy, science, biography, sociology, history, political science and the classics. Authors like Montaigne, the 16th century French essayist, became Hoffer's mentoF. "I can't read French, and yet it's the French who always influenced me. Montaigne, Pascal, Renan, Bergson -and de Tocqueville. What a pleasure to read de Tocquevillel They were my teachers." (Tomkins, 1968, p. 41). Hoffer was obviously influenced by the lucid, literary style of the French.
Thompson, M. E. (1979). Eric Hoffer and the Significance of Reading. Reading Horizons, 20 (1). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol20/iss1/13