There’s plenty of theses you could create from Malcolm X’s personal, thought-provoking essay on discovering reading and books. Here are some ideas:
One possible thesis is as follows: Malcolm X’s essay demonstrates that you don’t have to go to college to be well educated.
In the final paragraph of the essay, Malcolm X tells how a London writer once asked him where he went to college. Malcolm X replied, “Books.” That exchange demonstrates that colleges and higher education do not have a monopoly on knowledge. It’s possible to receive a comprehensive, thorough education on your own or in spaces not attached to schools. Indeed, Malcolm X shows that critical learning can happen anywhere, including in prisons.
A second possible thesis is as follows: Malcolm X’s essay demonstrates the physicality of learning and reading.
One detail that continually captives me is when Malcolm X writes about how he starts to copy the first page of the dictionary onto his tablet. This indicates how learning and reading can be aggressive, physical endeavors. You can choose to read a book and think about it in an immaterial, abstract way. Yet there’s also concrete ways to relate to books and reading. In the same way that a dancer might reenact a dance she really likes, if a reader really likes something or wants to more fully absorb something, they can rewrite it like Malcolm X does.
A third possible thesis is as follows: Malcolm X’s essay shows how reading can be a form of escapism and a flight from reality.
This thesis could take a rather antagonistic view of Malcolm X’s essay. You could think about how Malcolm X’s infatuation with reading might lead him to have a distorted view of his reality. I’m thinking of the part when Malcolm X writes,
Months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.
While it’s great that books are having such a transcendent impact on Malcolm X, the rather figurative use of freedom might be somewhat harmful. Physically, Malcolm X isn’t free. He's in prison. That’s his reality. Books might be a positive distraction, but they can’t literally set him free. However, changes in laws and policies can literally set him free, but it’s hard to change policies and laws if you’re in jail reading.