The Magic of Books

I love books. Always have. Always will. My mom read to me since before I had memory. The first memory that formed in my head about books is when I was sitting on her lap while she read Tim and Tom Play Ball to me for about the one hundredth time. I can still see the pictures on the pages in my head. I loved that book. I remember watching her fingers point to the words as she read and suddenly realizing that those letters had sounds that turned into words and then all of a sudden I could read.

My mom said I used to sit on the front stairs of my porch with that book and read to my friends. But that was before I realized what reading was. She said I had the whole book memorized and knew when to turn the pages. All my friends thought I could read. I’ve been reading ever since. There were only two times in my life where I stopped reading for pleasure: after undergraduate and graduate school. I had to do so much reading to get my degrees that I was worn out and couldn’t open a book for any reason.

I get so excited when I see books. I like to touch them, smell them, look at the book covers (they are their own form of art). I want to buy every book I see. And I check out way too many books at the library. Right now I have 55 checked out and more on the way from inter-library loan. I know the librarians probably think I’m crazy. But I read all the books I take out. Unless they bore me or I just can’t groove with the author’s prose. Then I give up because life is too short to read bad books.

I love to get lost in the worlds inside books. Movies actually play in my head – and that’s when I’m really gone – and I can hear the voices of the characters and the smells and sounds of where they are come alive to me.

I learn so many things that I don’t have room in my brain to keep them all. I forget a lot of things. I wish my brain wouldn’t do that. Though I can jar my memory with the right clues. But I’d rather just be able to recall just from hearing the title of a book or the topic being mentioned by someone else. I wish I had been been blessed with an eidetic memory. Although for some things, I do. I can see certain images from my childhood very clearly. I don’t know why some things stick with me more than others.

When I’m rich, I’m going to have a wall full of custom-made bookshelves and fill it with books. I know one day when I’m gone they’ll probably go to goodwill or an estate sale and that’s fine by me. Though I hope my children will each grab a handful just to remember me by. I could sit and read all day, every day and feel complete contentment. I really could. Sometimes I get up and just walk around because when I think of all the books I want to read I worry that I won’t get to them all. Sometimes I find myself hurrying through a book to get to the next one. But when I realize I’m doing it, I slow down and take a deep breath. I don’t want to move over the words too quickly. You can’t soak up the story like that. You end up missing little details and jewels the author hides in between the words. Stuff that isn’t said, but is.

Every book is a song to me. Some are up tempo and have you turnin’ pages so fast you get to the end of the book before you mean too. Others are a slow dance and make you put the book down every so often to feel the rhythm of what you just read. Books are emotions, too. Some have you scared and hearing noises in the house that ain’t there. Some make you angry. Some tear your heart out or leave you in shock. Some books haunt you forever, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. Sometimes you see yourself in the characters. Sometimes you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know. You can come of age reading a book. Learn things before your parents wanted you to know about them. Experience the feelings of things without having to go through it yourself – and sometimes that’s a good thing because there’s some stuff out there in the world that I just don’t want ever happen to me.

You can fall in love in a book. You can fall out of love, too. You can experience things you’ll never experience in the real world, but yet it seems so real when you’re reading it that you wonder if somehow, on some other plain of existence, that shit you just read actually happened to you. That’s why I love fiction. You can make it up as you go and whatever falls onto the page is real. Dragons, magical powers, time travel, life on other planets, it’s all there and anything’s possible. There are no limits to the worlds in a book except the one’s the author puts on him or herself. And sometimes fiction becomes reality, too. I like to think that fiction writers make the impossible possible. They think it up and write it down and then let the more grounded folks like scientists and researchers make it reality. Yeah, writers are dreamers and books are dreams.

The rhythm and sounds of words on a page are hypnotizing. It’s an art to arrange words in just the right way. When I come across a beautiful sentence, I stop and read it over and over again and let it sink into my soul. Beautiful sentences strike chords deep in my soul. They are just as beautiful to me as priceless artifacts or famous paintings.

I think Stephen King said it best when he said “books are a uniquely portable magic.”

And I’m here for it all.

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