The mere sight of books makes me feel good. They bring a smile to my face. When I touch them, I sense something within me. This something feels like a bond that is eager to grow between me and someone I still don’t know. And the moment I pick a book to read, I know I will have new acquaintances surrounding me, who will become everything for me for a few days. Some might gradually disappear into thin air while others might live within me for the rest of my life. Every time I read a book, I befriend someone; I see myself in someone or I can just completely relate to and empathise with someone. That someone might be a character in a novel or even the author.
At times I wish the author could be my friend. A friend who feels the same way as I feel and whom I could open my heart to. It would not be an exaggeration if one says that the characters in a novel or in a book start to live in our mind. They build their homes within us and influence the way we look at the world around us. They lend their experiences to our lives. Yes, they add to our experiences.
I completely agree with William Styron when he said that,
A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.
I believe reading makes us aware not just of the world around us, but it also makes us aware of our own reality.
At times it feels strange and at times it makes me baffled to think that a person I have never met, or a person who might be dead already, had set down in words what I once felt or what I have been feeling all along. Such wonderful experiences that come with reading usually humble us as well as soothe us. The realization that our feelings, our pain or our troubles are not unprecedented in the history of the world is itself a great achievement. It makes our pain and our troubles look mundane and undeserving of our attention and energy.
It was reading that made me realize that life is irrational. It helped me to make peace with many irrationalities of life. And it was reading that made it easier for me to cope with many painful realizations of life. Through reading I was made aware of the existence of many experiences that I was yet to experience. And one day when I myself encountered these situations, the experiences I had read about helped me to to cope with these emotions. I could thus handle the harsh realities of my life better. Reading can truly save you from denying your reality, your heartbreaks and your pain.
However, it was reading again which healed many of my wounds. I felt relieved and healed when I came across written words which manifested the very situations I started to believe were nothing less than a tragedy. It feels better to know that life treats everyone weirdly and irrationally. It’s not just me.
George Orwell once said that
The best books … are those that tell you what you know already.
But I feel that the best books also tell us about experiences which we ourselves have not yet experienced. In fact, I feel reading reveals to us who we are. By knowing other people; by knowing what they think, feel and do; by knowing their eccentricities, we learn and understand about ourselves, about ‘who we are’ and ‘what we might become’.
Do you agree that reading is as creative a process as writing? Reading is always accompanied by a process of active imagination. The author might be giving the reader the outlines of the story, of the characters, of the situations and of the emotions. But don’t you think it is the reader who works on the nitty-gritties of every emotion, every character and every situation and creates them in his or her mind?
I feel books and the concomitant process of reading breaks the shackles of time. It allows people from some distant epoch to speak to you and connect with you. It becomes the channel through which they, from distant lands and time periods, can pass on to us their experiences and realizations of life. Their voices reverberate in our head, and take roots in our soul. I have always believed the words of Carl Sagan that: “To read is to voyage through time.”
Yes, once upon a time reading was a daunting task for me, but now it is my love. For now I read for the pure pleasure of it. I read for the comfort it provides. I read because reading has often shattered my beliefs, my world view, but then changes them into something much better.
Fiction or non-fiction, history or love stories, facts or fabrications … just read. Read and let your mind decide.
|Love of Reading||Sumana Singha||CC BY-SA 4.0|