Anna Quindlen – a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author – stopped by UCSB last night to share her thoughts on reading, the media and the value of education.

Quindlen currently writes Newsweek’s popular column “The Last Word,” which explores national affairs in the light of everyday life. Her recently released novel, Rise and Shine, debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list and her work has also appeared in a variety of magazines.

Quindlen took the stage in Campbell Hall at 8 p.m. brandishing a sheet of paper with the words “Call me Ishmael” from Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. Quindlen, whose lecture focused on the value of reading and writing in a democratic society, said she wanted to illustrate the influence that that particular vein of literature has had on her life and career.

“I believe with all my heart that reading has made me who I am today – I cannot imagine my life without it,” Quindlen said.

Throughout her lecture, Quindlen told stories about her relationship with literature growing up and shared how reading influenced her to boldly join the New York Times as a copy girl at the age of eighteen.

This upstart decision, she said, ultimately kick-started her way to a career as a successful and celebrated journalist.

A graduate of Barnard College, Quindlen became a hired columnist for the New York Times in 1977 and is only the third female in the paper’s history to write a regular Op-Ed column. She won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992 for her nationally syndicated column, Public and Private.

Quindlen eventually left the Times and joined Newsweek. In 1995, Quindlen left the newspaper business altogether in order to pursue a career as a novelist. She has since written several best-selling novels.

Quindlen offered advice to UCSB students and aspiring journalists interested in pursuing a writing career.

“I can assure you it’s not a high rent job, it’s not a high paying job, but if it’s in you – then you’ve got to do it,” Quindlen said. “I’ve seen people and gone to places I’d otherwise never have been able to see. Reporters are like sharks, we just have to keep going until we die.”

Santa Barbara Independent columnist Starshine Roshell, who introduced Quindlen before she took the stage, said Quindlen is an inspiring figure.

“She touches you and challenges you to live your life differently,” Roshell said.

After her lecture, Quindlen opened the floor to questions from the audience and in her closing remarks, Quindlen urged the crowd to stay involved and always pursue education.

“Empathy is the key to humanity and reading promotes empathy,” Quindlen said.