Book people are a bit odd. I am a book lover and admittedly I am a bit odd. I love books in the same way people love art or music. I appreciate the work as a whole and also the little details. A book, to me, is three parts: the actual story, the story that the writer is inadvertently telling about himself/herself, and the story of all the people who have gone on the journey before me.
It is obvious to love the first part. If it’s a good story, you can’t put it down. You think about the characters long after you have turned the last page; you are affected by it on some level, and without even knowing it, changed a little. You see the world differently, you view a person differently, you think about what could be, and what is to come. If a book is good, I will read the whole thing right then and there. I have been known to read a book twice in one day. If a book is great, I might savor it, reading it in chunks, thinking about my “friends”. If a book is bad, I close the book. But if a book is mildly entertaining, I weep – I become a prisoner – I can’t put the book down, because if I do, I will never know what happened, and hey, maybe it will get better. Miracles can happen. But if I keep reading and trudging through the vomit of pretentious descriptions (yes we all know you own a thesaurus), and bad character development, and sub plots that make me want to poke my eyes out, I am just going to be mad. These books take me a week to read, because I begrudgingly have to finish them. Every time I pick them up I am mad that they have held me hostage. But I digress.
The second part is about the writer. This is something that gets overlooked so often, but to me is beautiful. When an author does a story right and connects you to a character and their journey, they are unintentionally connecting you to themselves. It is obvious to see that certain authors love justice or believe that every person can make a difference. I have read authors and thought about how visible their insecurities are, or their deepest longings, and I end up praying for them. As a writer, it is almost impossible to not put yourself on the page, which is why even an amateur writer’s tome is a sacred thing. And when a book is published, a little piece of the author is on display for anyone who is looking hard enough to see. I personally love discovering these things about the name on the cover.
The third part is a bit stranger, but by far my favorite. When you read a book – when you leave to go to Middle Earth, or turn-of-the-century Brooklyn, or into the future of space – you are not the first. Reading is a solo act, but it is something that though done alone, it is not lonely. Book clubs exist to discuss the new friends made, and the new adventures that people have gone on. Talking about reading connects our intimate experience to one another. And when I read a book someone else has already read, I am connected to their journey through the book. I see the notes in the pages, the scribbles in the margins and the highlights of parts that spoke to the other readers and I can catch a small glimpse of what they were thinking. The coffee ring on the cover where it was used as a coaster. I can see the jelly they enjoyed while reading because they couldn’t be bothered to put the book down while eating. I see the watermarks and know they picked this book to relax in the tub with. And I see the dog eared pages and wonder, would I have stopped there?
A friend of mine recently gave me an old Encyclopedia Britannica, printed in 1892. The pages are yellow and the binding is falling apart. To anyone else this is just an old book. But to me this book is beautiful and telling. I imagine the brand new book sitting in a store window before the turn of the century, lined up next to its companions. And this book that I can hold in my hand and touch its pages has seen Prohibition, the Great Depression, world wars, hippies, the disco age, the fall of the Berlin wall, and when Bill Clinton famously denied … well, you know. This book sat quietly on a shelf and witnessed love, and loss, and life. Maybe a lawyer owned them, or a professor. Maybe a mother bought them as an investment for her young children? Who owned this book? Who has touched its pages, or ran a finger down its spine?
A book is so much more than words on a page. It’s more than even the story that it’s telling. A book is a gift.
Editor’s Note: Kristin is an avid reader (and by “avid” we mean she reads multiple books per week, if not per day) with a great appreciation for the author and his/her literary work. No doubt, you can likely tell that by the intro article above. If you ever wonder if a book is worth reading, ask Kristin – she’s probably already read it … at least once. That being the case, we thought she’d be perfect to write book reviews for On the Willows! So keep an eye out for a review once or twice a month on a book Kristin thinks you should know about. The first one will be posted tomorrow!
And, of course, if any of you would be interested in submitting a review, let us know!