I got invited to join a book group last month: my friend Tiffany sent her book-loving girlfriends an invitation to read Little Women and then come to a cool Wallingford coffeehouse this past Monday to discuss it. Seven of us showed up–and we had a rolicking, thoughtful, and thought-provoking discussion of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.

There are books that stun me with the beauty of their writing or with the cleverness of their plots or with the cohesiveness of their storylines. Those books make me want to be a better writer.

This was not that book. It did not make me want to be a better writer.

It made me want to be a better person.

As a writer, I know that no one could write a book like this today. It would come off as preachy, moralistic, didactic–all those things that reviewers eschew. But as a person, I am grateful such books have been written, grateful this book was written.

I learned much about my own motives for writing and my own fears of failing (failing God, failing my family and friends, failing myself, failing my readers) as I read about Jo’s struggles to find her voice.

I learned about my own lack of self-control when I am angry and desired to be more like Marmee (I’ve begun pursing my lips like she does, to bite back the angry words that are all too often on the tip of my tongue).

I learned about gratitude and patience and contentment as I watched Meg and Beth and Amy battle their particular demons and emerge, eventually, triumphant.

The goodness, patience, contentment, and all around maturity of these girls (and of their mother, especially) as they grow from children to women is what I aspire to.

I wanted to take the wisdom of this book and inject it straight into my heart.