A friend recently asked me what draws me to books, and why I love reading so much. I found my thoughts hard to articulate. How does one summarise what can only be experienced? An experience that starts with the rustic smell of the book which progresses with every page turned. Still, I decided to attempt it by writing a piece that I consider my non-poetic ode to the thing I love the most: books.
I never read a lot before this summer. In fact, I used to be one of those people who said they loved books but only read two a year. I was the person who recommended the same book to anyone who asked.
My love for books stems from the fact that they are universal and at the same time, incredibly personal. Thousands of people read the same novel, but it impacts each of them differently. Difference in opinion are encouraged in this realm. There’s no right or wrong, and the possibilities are endless. A disagreement is simply a unique perspective that will provoke you to look at a piece of work from a different lens, offering you an insight into not just the book but the mind of the person who reads it.
I find it very fascinating that there exists a different version of the writer in every reader’s mind. We perceive an author, their purpose and personality entirely on how we engage with their work. So, even after they die, their essence remains as with every new reader, a newer impression emerges.
In a book called Almond by Sohn Won-pyung, there’s a passage that perfectly encompasses the significance of novels:
“Books took me to places I could never go otherwise. They shared the confessions of people I’d never met and lives I’d never witnessed. The emotions I could never feel, and the events I hadn’t experienced could all be found in those volumes.”
I read books set in Japan, South Korea, Ancient Greece and many other places in the world with cultures distinct to my own. Yet, they resonate with me. Learning about new traditions, or reliving history through the old ones, enlightens me. Topics like war, hunger, prejudice, poverty and sexuality among others, remain relevant regardless of whether we experience it first hand or not. We’re sporadically scattered across the globe but we are witnesses to the same circumstances.
Talking more personally, books are my comfort zone. They create an intangible, non-judgemental world that I can escape to. Like every growing young adult, I am constantly made to question myself and my choices. My brain frequently feels as though it’s a dormant volcano that may erupt at any moment. But, when I read – about characters that are so extremely flawed, with personality traits I am told to hate, and situations that I’m told to “get over” – it makes me feel seen. It’s bizarre yet so artistically beautiful that sometimes, fictional characters provide me more solace than real people do.
This is perhaps why I have had a soft spot for coming of age, romance novels. Though it seems far-fetched to have such an all-consuming love story, or to have friends that actually execute the group trips they plan, these novels nudge me to not settle. Whenever I blush, kick my feet in the air with giddiness or weep in a scene between the protagonist and their dog (who is somehow always written to be a golden retriever), I uncover a whole new spectrum of emotions and reactions. In a world that snaps any attempt at individuality, books encourage me to not just discover mine, but to retain it. Call it cheesy or basic, it’ll always be whimsical.
To the person reading this article, if you’re a voracious reader, I hope your love for books never fades. If you’re someone who isn’t into books as much, or at all, I’d strongly implore you to explore that territory. I’m sure you’ll find something to fall in love with.
Suditi Sundaram is a third year student at university, pursuing an undergraduate degree in English. An aspiring writer, she seeks comfort in books and world cinema, diving into the realities of the world while attempting to decode the complexities of human nature.