I’ve always been fascinated by languages, words and the worlds that they can construct. It was obvious from a very young age that my interest for the alphabet and reading stretched far beyond what was considered ‘normal’ for children the same age. In primary school, I was in a reading group with the eldest children at our school, something that intimidated me. My reading abilities had nothing to do with being smart, I was just curious for words, and craved to learn more with each one that I was taught. At the age of 9, I started writing poems. They weren’t very good, but I collected them all in a bundle and sold them to my family (I was a clever merchant, and a poet, it turned out, kind of like Shakespeare, you could say, haha). I went to the library weekly, or multiple times a week. I had to take out books on my mum’s library card on several occasions, because I’d reached the maximum amount of loans for my own card. I was part of a children and youth reading group called KJV for a couple of years. I’d look forward to the end of each year of this reading group, so I could meet the authors that had created the worlds I had spent so much time discovering. I was in complete awe of their capabilities. And today, I still am. I competed in poetry competitions whenever I found the courage to share my words, because to share writing is to share a bit of yourself, I feel like. I wrote a short story about a dolphin once (and unfortunately have no idea where it went, what happened to it, and if it could’ve been a bestseller – I presume not). I was beyond excited when I was given Scrabble for my birthday. When we went to Bath with our High School, I was most excited about the Jane Austen shop, while all my other friends were telling me to hurry up so they could go eat fudge. I wrote letters, to my friends, my family, dozens and dozens. I have always been way better at expressing my feelings in words on paper than I am in real life. Needless to say, when I had to pick a major at university, there was never really a question that it would be literature and linguistics.
Nevertheless, over the years, as words turned into endless papers, my poems turned into empty pages, the library cards hadn’t been used in years, because my obligatory reading lists were so long, I have sometimes forgotten what it is that I enjoyed so much about reading. So, this is for myself, for you, for anyone that hasn’t touched a book in a very long time. For anyone that loves to read, but just needs to be reminded.
Why I love to read.
Because there is no better way to forget that there is an outside world, to get lost in ages, places and cultures that aren’t yours, but very much seem to be so when you are emerged in them. To forget all your problems, because well, nothing beats going on a quest. Whether that is for love, safety, something that was lost, someone. I mean, priorities, right?
Because there is no better way to learn. Foucault knows it: words are knowledge, and knowledge is power. A power that sets society in motion and makes the world go round. There is no better way to learn to speak eloquently, to expand your vocabulary, to learn about the history (of our languages). To experience different cultures and habits from the comfort of your own couch, with a cup of tea.
Because there is no better way to empathise. To feel whatever the main character is feeling, to go through the motions with them. To feel the loss that Harry Potter experienced, to feel the feminist empowerment that Hermione represents, to gain the patience and wisdom of Dumbledore and to learn to relativise with Ron’s wit. And to understand others even if you don’t agree with them.
Because a Billy library from IKEA just looks a lot better with loads of books in them. Plain fact.
Because even if all your books are taken away from you, if you donate all your books to charity, if you give them all to friends, no one can take away the stories you’ve lived.
Because it’s a great way to learn a new language. It’s one thing to master the grammar and vocabulary, it’s another thing to form sentences that make sense, to learn the idioms, to learn what is socially acceptable to say.
Because it’s something you can discuss, talk about, (dis)agree about. It’s a great way to connect. Whenever I find myself on the train and I see someone reading, I’m always curious to see what they’re reading, and I’ve struck up numerous conversations with strangers because I was reading something myself. It’s nice.
Because why the hell not?