I often try to explain why I love to read and struggle to find the words. As a librarian trying to stimulate a love of reading, stories and words in young people, it is a conversation that I have regularly but any victory I have in creating readers relies far more on my ability to match a student to a story that will open their eyes than my own capacity to explain this moment of realisation. My work relies on other people’s words to inspire far more than my own and it is other people’s words that have made me a reader.
In my library I often quote George R. R. Martin; “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, a man who does not read lives only one.” Some students light up at hearing a familiar sentiment articulated but some remain unconvinced. At times I feel faintly ridiculous telling sceptical teenagers that I have travelled to extraordinary places and met remarkable people through books, but it is true. Without stories I would never have watched Chroma the Great conduct the sunrise with Milo and Tock. I would never have laughed and cried with Augustus and Hazel or wondered at the beauty of the night sky with Mina.
Reading has shaped me and I sometimes wonder about how different I would be if I hadn’t had these experiences. Would I have a simpler relationship with faith if I hadn’t prayed ceaselessly with Franny Glass? Would I still be a librarian if I hadn’t fallen for Henry DeTamble? I definitely wouldn’t get a little thrill of excitement when I see a tree disappearing into the sky if I hadn’t been exploring with Jo, Bessie and Fanny when I was a child, and I don’t suppose I would think of my friends as kindred spirits if I hadn’t met Anne Shirley. When I visited Iceland and didn’t see the Northern Lights I was consoled by having seen them with Lyra and Pantalaimon.
I love the feeling when you pick up a book and open it for the first time – that feeling of limitless possibility. That this book might change your life, this author might express things you think and feel but in words that float and soar. Every book you start could be the best book you’ve ever read. Of course if you read a lot, you will read the average, disappointing or mundane but you will also discover the illumianting, the sublime and the magnificent. Every so often when you read, you will find a book that speaks to you so profoundly that it will make you giddy with wonder. It will reveal and provoke, wound and heal, comfort and astound. We should seek these books out, soak them up, marvel in them and then share them with as many people as we can.