Reader, I’ll start with an apology for giving in to the whole Valentines thing, but I hope you’ll forgive me as this remains very much a bookish post.
I was pondering on what would make a good post in the spirit of this most commercial of days. Love it or not this day is an excellent excuse to take some fun, love-themed pictures for my bookstagram account. Coming up with those photos was easy enough but this post was a little more tricky. The possibilities were endless because love and books seem to me to be inseparable. Truth be told I’m still making my mind up, so let’s see where this goes shall we.
I toyed with the idea of writing about some great love stories, I even started to narrow down a list…. Classics like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice… perhaps some more modern picks like Atonement, Song of Achilles and Normal People. But then I actually couldn’t make the list short enough.
So I thought some more about my own love of books. And to me this is a much greater, more far reaching love story that I wanted to discuss.
That love affair is between this bibliophile and the written word. Boyfriends, unrequited loves and a fair few frogs (who never turned into princes) have all come and gone, but books have remained. They’ve stolen my heart, broken it too and yes at times they have disappointed. Mostly though they have been constant companions; soothed me when I’m sick, given a warm embrace at difficult times and taken me to many new and exciting places.
Being on bookstagram I see each day that I am not alone in my love of reading. The very phenomenon of bookstagram (and book twitter which I’ll confess to knowing next to nothing about) suggests that there is a whole community out there who are as obsessed with the written word as me.
But why are we all so obsessed?
The obvious answer I suppose is that they offer us an insight into another world – to a time and space which is not our own. The best books, in my opinion, paint a landscape or a world which, even if it is the one which we inhabit, is drawn slightly differently.
Then of course there are the characters who when they are well written become friends, or in some cases much more. (Anyone else had a crush on a character from a book? Just me?) A perfectly crafted character will have a reader stepping beyond empathy and into a place where they themselves can feel the emotions of the characters as strongly as if they were their own. This happened to me most recently when I read A Little Life.
In a modern world where we seem to be bombarded with distractions and stimuli the very act of sitting down with a book can be immensely calming – a rare opportunity to just take some time. A simple act of self-care (or to stick with the theme, self-love). Is it a coincidence that the business of books seems to be booming as more and more people realise that books can offer solace or a remedy to the stresses, perils and strains of modern living.
As a child I wasn’t very good at making friends. I always preferred to play by myself, often making up dream worlds or scenarios. In books I found a whole world which had been created for me, worlds populated by characters who I could share experiences with. It’s not lost on me that both writing and now the online book community has provided me with many friends, and a sense of belonging, of having found my tribe.
So this Valentines I’d like to say thank you to that great love of mine – to reading, to books and to words.