When I look at the books on my bookshelves, they hold so many memories for me, memories of important and defining moments and events in my life. I look at ‘The Assassin’s Blade’ and I remember buying it when I finished my last GCSE exam; I see ‘Heir of Fire’ by Sarah J. Maas and I think about how I read it on the way to collect my GCSE results; I look at ‘Clockwork Angel’ and I remember buying it on the day on which I went to watch ‘Wicked’ in London, one of my all-time favourite musicals, and the day I went to Foyles for the first time; I look at ‘Lady Midnight’ and remember that I pre-ordered that special edition on the day when I got an offer from my first-choice university; I look at ‘Magus of Stonewylde’ and associate it with the day when I got the lead role in the school play. My books are triggers for so many memories, some of which I’m sure I would forget without them as reminders, and the characters in these novels feel like old friends because I associate these memories with them and they were with me at very important times.
You read some books at exactly the time that you need to read them. They can uplift you and inspire you, raise you up when you are feeling down…You read about a character who’s feeling exactly the same way you’re feeling or is in the same situation, and somehow you don’t feel quite so alone anymore. Novels are powerful and amazing things, and even the fantasy that seems totally removed from our own world or our own experiences has an essential truth to it and underneath the surface there are very relatable aspects.
I’ve learnt so many things from the books I’ve read. Books can be highly influential and didactic. Books can establish empathy and challenge and change assumptions and stigmas about things like mental health (I’m particularly thinking of Holly Bourne’s ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ here). One of my favourite quotes about novels comes from Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Infernal Devices’ series and the main character Tessa:
“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
Words can generate opinions and actions and fundamentally change who we are. I’m sure some of the books I have read have changed me.
And isn’t it also amazing that books physically can seem so small and understated, but actually between those covers which are perhaps no more than an inch or few inches apart, there is access to a whole new world (okay, now I’m thinking of Aladdin!) if it’s a fantasy or dystopia? That books can transport us to other time periods and societies? I guess they are one of the closest things we have to time travel. And that the people who read have been to so many more places and have known so many more people (in characters) than the ones who don’t?