(Yes, I know it’s been a while. It’s been a crazy couple of months, but I’ve once again wrangled some time.)
Books are magical creatures. They’ve been my best friends. They’ve sometimes been my only friends. They’ve guided me, counseled me, captured my tears and swallowed my giggles. They are my constant companions (I never go anywhere without a book). And they’ve followed me throughout my life, some more than others. While arguably almost everything I’ve learned has come from a book in some form or another, there are 5 things I’ve most certainly learned from books.
1. Everyone has a touch of Grey
No. Not 50 shades. The Dead once sang, “Every silver lining’s got a
touch of grey.” What I’ve learned from books is that humanity is so much more complex than just black and white. No matter how we want to paint people, no matter how many colors we want to give them, everyone has a touch of grey…even if they’re the hero of the story. It’s an ambiguous, uncertain quality, neither good nor bad. Just grey. My favorite books have been those with flawed protagonists. While superficially love seeing a fairy-tale ending, deep down, I prefer acknowledging that none of us are perfect. Even fictional characters in a story.
2. There is a book for every mood
Whether you want a book you can wrap around you like an old, comfortable quilt or a book that attacks your brain with a thousand razor blades – there is a book for that. I admit to picking books by my mood. It’s why I read several at a time; I never know what I’ll be in a mood for until I pick one up. It’s one of the great consolations of books. Even when real-life people let you down, you can always find a book to escape to.
3. You can manifest courage from a concept
In my mind, I envision all of us as walking matches (yes, literal matches). And, until we find the right striker, we’re pretty much just potential energy. But find the right idea, the right trigger – and WHOOSH! Your flame burns big and bright, sometimes ready to light others around you, sometimes just sending a beacon out into the worldIf you’re still with me after that image, I think one of the greatest purposes of books is to introduce those concepts, those ideas that light your match. Perhaps it was planted there by Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, or perhaps it’s just the natural progression of history and time. Books introduce concepts that often lead to risks and to change – both of which require courage.
4. You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read (or don’t read)
Yes, I judge you by your bookcase (or lack thereof).
This doesn’t mean you and I can’t be friends, or even date each other (heck, I was married to a non-reader), but know that if you hand me dreck you rave about (see Fifty Shades above), deep down inside my heart sinks a little and I’ll hold you a little more at arms-length. Don’t take it too personally. It’s just that a large part of my inner circle includes books instead of people, and now I feel like I can’t introduce them to you. I’d really rather you be a non-reader; it’s less embarrassing that way.
Yes. I’m a book snob. I’m OK with that. It doesn’t mean I don’t read some absolute “brain candy” but I like to vary my brain food with a healthy, complete diet.
I’m also willing and prepared to be judged by my (virtual) bookcase. [I had to say goodbye to over 800 real-life books over the course of moving, being married and unmarried. Rip my heart out again, will ya?] Oh, and be forewarned – I think certain graphic novels count as literature (hello Watchmen).
5. The unbelievably overwhelming power of words
Books are the best illustration of how powerful words can be. Not only can someone’s words be passed down hundreds and hundreds of years (posterity, y’all), but they can reshape governments and nations and give power back to those once thought powerless.
I’ve learned words I never even knew existed (“surreptitious cetaceans”), fallen madly in love with words (“languid” for one), and generally built a beautiful vocabulary in my head. And while we’re supposed to generally communicate on a 7th-grade reading level when we’re dealing with the general public (no, seriously…it hurts the baby Jesus), isn’t it wonderful to give that internal monologue (I can’t be the only with voices in her head) of yours just the right words for that meretricious skank?
How do you harness their power? Write down words you learn. Words you want to want to use more. Create your own word-a-day calendar. I collect words, in books, on Pinterest, in handwritten journals. You can never know too many words (and they’re low-cal too!). Over the years, books have given me the ability to write my own love story: the story of me and words. True love at last.