Late last year, I met Wally Amos at his Chip & Cookie store in Kailua for a chat about what he’s reading. In the end, he read to me in his measured, animated voice, two heart-opening children’s books. Always unexpected and positive, it’s was one of my memorable interviews.

What I’m Reading | Wally “Famous” Amos
Literacy Advocate, Famous Entrepreneur

Q&A with Christine Thomas
December 2007

–Before the interview proper:

What a coincidence. I just walked out of the Honolulu library where I read a chapter of The Joy Luck Club—I’d never read the book before and I really enjoyed it so I checked it out. It’s funny because I visit libraries all the time to read for children but I wasn’t sure I even had a card. I had a fine from checking out Catch-22 twenty years before.

–What are you reading?

When I travel I like to have a book. I like reading novels and things, and I can’t wait to get started on The Joy Luck Club I read a chapter yesterday for Project Read, and liked it so much I checked it out of the library.

I’m also reading a book—it’s probably the second or third time I’ve read it—called Make it an adventure by Marcus Bach. He wrote thirty books, probably about all religions of the world and long-living people of the world. He was a great friend and a neat, neat guy. I always go back and grab one of his books because I always find something new every time. It’s a great reminder—I’m on a chapter called Being Courteous, about how life can become an adventure just by being courteous.

–Is Bach one of your touchstones?

Yes, his books are like that. I wanted him to work with me on my first book—I really wanted to write a book to promote Famous Amos, and he said he would and time went on—he died in 1994 and he was so busy all the time—finally he says I want to but my schedule and my time is so limited … I’m just not going to do it but I’ll give you some advice….write like you talk.

His books are like that. I always get the feeling that I am holding him in my hand. So now that he’s no longer alive it’s like having him around. ….

I love reading inspirational, spiritually-based books because I think they definitely give you a guide about how a productive life is to be lived—give you real insight into leading a meaningful life.

–What about The Joy Luck Club made you check it out right away?

It is a fun book with a great sense of humor, great sensitivity that tugs at your emotions, and I’m amazed how you can be reading and all of a sudden the words get right in your body and manipulate your emotions. It surprises you sometimes—you don’t even know it’s coming. … It’s personal with a book; it’s you and the book and you have to visualize it, so you become a part of the book also. The reader and the book become one.

–How does your own reading help you keep inspiring people to transform their lives?

I love reading because this is a great reminder of how live is supposed to be lived. … The things with children’s books is that you have to read them to kids over and over and over again so the message really saturates their little brains, so it impacts them in a way they never ever, ever forget. This isn’t a children’s book—parents become better parents, become stronger families. That’s why I promote reading aloud—that can change the world. Books are really, really incredible.

–So reading is just part of your life adventures?

It’s a great part of my adventure. My ultimate goal is that this store, this company and business will be so big and so successful that I’ll have nothing to do with it. My passion and what I really want to do is just saturate the United States with the message about how important it is to read aloud to children, if only ten minutes a day, from birth to six years old. You will change the life of that child.