Carl Sagan – “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
It’s no secret that I would rather live, eat and sleep in a library than my own home. It’s no secret that I feel if the internet and the television suddenly disappeared from our modern lives, I would be the better for it. It would mean less distractions so I can concentrate more on reading and writing. It’s no secret that I would rather spend an evening with a book than a group of friends, as much as I adore my companions. Hell, I choose books even over men and dates, any day.
Today, I decided to get down to the root of it all. Why do books hold so much fascination for me? So much magic? Was it because I wanted to escape reality and the troubles of day to day life? Did I want to improve my writing skills? Maybe I was simply interested in the stories books had to tell?
My love affair with books started at a very young age. At the time, I was in the first year of school and was assigned these thin little books with pictures that filled most of the page and with little row of a few words at the bottom. I read them duly. I didn’t like them too much. They were rather boring. The talked about cats or houses. Basically, realistic stuff. But I devoured them, anyway.
Then, near the end of the first year, I picked up an Enid Blyton Book, one of the many in her ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ series. I learnt about this wondrous world where these children climbed up this magnificent tree in the enchanted woods and made friends with all sorts of funny little creatures and went up into a different world every day at the top of the tree, having wonderful adventures.
It was as if I had touched upon the essence of my being. Magic, fantasy, wonder, childhood expectation. All those things were revealed to me upon the pages of Enid Blyton books. I moved on from those to ‘The Magic Wishing Chair’ and then ‘The Fantastic Four’.
And from then on a journey began that will never end until the day I die. I fell in love with Roald Dahl books. I fell in love with Ray Bradbury books. I fell in love with Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, Paul Jennings. I loved fantastical and strange short stories the best. They appealed to my inner desire for the wondrous and eccentric. I began to adore books that dealt with metaphor beautifully, even if they had no touch of magic to them. I fell in love with Scott Fitzgerald’s books and his exquisite writing style.
So after all these years of reading, I sit here now, before a computer, typing up my thoughts, trying to figure out what it is about books that is so alluring. Why would my soul wither and perish if there were no books? I know it is partly due to my introversion. Reading is a solitary activity that enlivens my senses. I know that I am an INFP and this personality type is known for its adoration of books. But the answer couldn’t simply just lie in personality type. That was too simple, too easy. There was something more.
I have finally come to many conclusions. Perhaps there isn’t one answer. Humans and books are both complex creatures (yes, I just personified books). I think it comes down to the fact that books appeal to my inner child, the one who wants to explore the limits of the world, body and mind. I have a vivid imagination and books allow me to set that free after a day spent keeping it caged by reality. But most of all, as Carl Sagan said, there is something magical about the books themselves. When I pick them up, a thrill runs through me. It is amazing to think that a whole other world exists within the pages, facilitated into being by words and the human mind. It is amazing to think that once, perhaps a long time ago, a dreamer sat at his desk and wrote it, pouring out his thoughts. It is amazing to think that now I can pick up the book and read it, to briefly dive into the thoughts of a person manifested into words who was dead long ago.
I think that is ultimately one of the greatest reasons I love books. They have a sense of the immortality to it. Flesh can rot and bones can crumble but books, if preserved, can last through centuries, millenniums. The authors live forever through books. They go on touching lives long after the breath has faded from their lips.
And that is something truly magical.