Even though I am usually more focused on mental health, today’s post will be dedicated to something entirely different. I will be talking about one of the most valuable resources we have. I will talk about readers and writers and most importantly, the special bond that exists between them, books. I am (and always have been) a huge book lover and I cannot imagine a day where I will not love picking up a new book, already curious about what will happen to the characters before having read the first page.
The Power of Books
Books can have an immense power over us. They show us our strengths as well as our flaws by telling a character’s story and giving us a new perspective on the world. Some books rip us in half. Some make us heal inside. Some make us cry and wrench in pain, others make us laugh heartily for the first time in ages. Some crush all our hope only to give it back, piece by piece. Some make us love the story and characters and others make us hate them. And the really good books, they do all of these at the same time.
Books are not just a way of spending our time; they can be a different world we want to escape to. They can be a distraction or guide to us, they are so much more than just pages with words on them. I once read the notion that books are thicker after we have read them, because we leave something of our soul on every page. We try to find parallels to our own lives and connect them with what we read. Somehow, this is all I can think about now when I look at my books that have nearly doubled in size.
We connect with the story, with the characters and, most importantly, with ourselves when reading. We can discover completely new sides or find out what we really want. We might realise that we are not alone and that there are others out there, just like us. Or we could discover that not everyone thinks like we do and that there are people who resemble our very opposite. We can experience entirely new worlds and learn about things we were not aware of before.
Books can educate and give us a feeling of belonging. They bring people together and make them connect on a different level. They can spend comfort when we are in a dark pit or give us a silent moment during a week of stress. But even more importantly, they can teach us.
What books teach us
Books carry so much power in them, but fewer and fewer people are aware of their magic. Only few are aware of the knowledge they capture and the invisible strings they can pull. They can teach us empathy, compassion and kindness, but they also show us the dark sides of humankind. They show us what happens to people who get eaten up by hate and disgust. They remind us of what strength is and how to stand up for ourselves. Books can teach us so many different things and resemble a great source of wisdom. Not all of them are equally good, but the more books you read, the more perspectives and stories you have seen, the more insight you get into other people’s lives and the more you will start to understand other people’s actions.
I am using the word “people” interchangeably with the word “characters” here, because the stories we read, might as well be true. Yes, most books are fiction, but quite many of them are based on true occurrences of people. Where do the ideas of characters come from? Yes, authors take them from real humans. We are over 7 billion people on this planet, chances are that quite a few of them have lived through something at least vaguely similar to what happens in the book. We can learn from characters in books for our own life.
The Aesthetics of Books
After having talked about their substance and intellectual worth, I would like to address the aesthetics of books, too. They are beautiful. Regardless of whether I buy the freshly printed copy of the New York Times bestseller in a huge chain bookstore or an old wrinkled Shakespeare play with notes in a second-hand bookstore. The smell and feeling of books is individual for each of them, but all of them are wonderful. Everyone has preferences on how they like their books best, but it doesn’t matter whether you like them in perfect shape or crease their pages and spine a hundred times. In a shelf, books always look magic. This might be the nerd in me talking, but a person with a full bookshelf will always be more attractive to me than a person having a living room with a huge TV. If I miraculously turn out to become rich one day, the first thing I would do is install a private library in my house. Just an entire room full of books. My own labyrinth of magic. And only after that I would think about the swimming pool.
Talking about aesthetics: There are so many beautifully looking pictures on the internet of books placed in seemingly perfect scenarios, but it is such a pity that many of them are fake. Sure, there are real people out there, who actually read the book that is visible on the picture (most of them will be here right now), but I would assume that there are far more people who just take the picture because it looks good and not because they actually read it or are fascinated by the story. This sounds negative now, but it has an upside. Even if it is fake, it is still advertisement, whether for the specific book or for reading in general. Maybe someone comes across this picture and thinks: “Oh, I have not read in a long time, I should pick up a book again”.
I am not sure about the numbers (if anyone works in the industry and knows about it, drop them in the comments), but I have the feeling that reading books is a declining trend and I hope so much that it will become more popular again in the future. They are of such great importance in our lives and have influence on human interaction and behaviour, so it is great if we put reminders out there for everyone to keep reading.
The People Who Write Books
Let’s not forget about the people who write all these books. Nearly all of them are wonderful, strong and determined. It takes so much work, passion and ambition to finish a book. Every author has to fight their individual fights, whether they have writer’s block or are struggling to be accepted by a publishing company. Many books never are finished. When we hold a book in our hands, it often has taken years of work by many different people until the point where we can actually take it from the shelf and flick through it. I do not think that authors get even nearly enough credit as they deserve. A surprising amount of people seems to think it would be possible to “just write a book” with a snap of fingers. So, here is a huge thank you to all writers who get up every morning and pour all their heart into their work to make us readers happy.
The Power of Authors
Authors might go through a lot of suffering until they publish their book, but when it is done, it is the reader, who feels the pain. Authors have a lot of power over their readers. By steering us through their world they get hold of our emotions and thoughts. They decide what we can see and what stays hidden. They influence whether we want to hug the character of punch them in the face. They can restore our faith in humanity or take it from us. Sometimes they decide to tell their own story in a changed way, other times, they make up entire universes and create the most amazing scenarios just from their fantasy. They can be creators, or destroyers, or both. Some books influence an entire generation, others open doors to discussions of societal issues and raise awareness of topics that have been neglected for a long time.
In every book I can find something that I identify with, but until today I have never read about a second me. I have seen a lot of characters that had a slight resemblance to me, but nothing was quite close enough to my personality that I would say “That’s totally me”. It is not the first time that this thought crosses my mind; that maybe I am looking for “my” book. The one that I totally understand and where I get all the references. The one book that someone else wrote about me, without knowing it. A parallel universe where I have a different story and adventures, but still have the same character traits and personality. I have wondered if other people feel like this too. I have wondered whether we are all just looking for ourselves when reading books and that we won’t stop until we have found ourselves.
It was only then when the truly wonderful idea crossed my mind. It is most likely that nobody else will write our own story, so guess what, we have to do it ourselves. We can write our own story. And we can it design the way we want. Writing enables us to tell the stories we would like to experience and gives us the opportunity to live our dreams through the characters. We can put them into different situations and let them figure out a way out of them. And contrary to real life, you can always make changes. You can change your mind and turn everything around until it is just the way you would like it to be. Nevertheless, writing does not only give us the ability to lay out dreams and imaginary worlds in front of us. It can help working through a difficult time and deal with your feelings and emotions, regardless of whether it is a book, blog or a diary.
I guess what I am trying to say is:
Keep reading, keep writing and keep being passionate about books.
Regardless of whether you are a reader, a writer or both, share this with people who love books just as much as you do. Or share it with people who hate books, it does not matter. Spread the love of books and what they can give us!