Friday, 22 May 2015

Reading Books, Reading People

How can being “bookish” actually help you to connect with other people?

A Benedictine monk reads in a monastery (borrowed from here).

When someone uses the word “bookish” to describe themselves or others, it’s easy for us to picture a solitary monk, spending his entire life in silence, with only the written word as a companion. And this same image might come to mind when seeing someone in public with her or his head buried in a book—secular monks cloistered in plain sight. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Available in physical, digital, and audio forms

As I mentioned in my last entry, Catherynne Valente has managed to make visible the subtle magic of reading in her book The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. In exploring why books can be so life-changing, she gives three reasons—the first was “A Book Is A Universe and the Universe is a Book.” Here’s the second:
Two: Books Are People. Some are easy to get along with and some are shy, some are full of things to say and some are quiet, some are fanciful and some are plainspoken, some you will feel as though you’ve known forever the moment you open the cover, and some will take years to grow into. Just like people, you must be introduced properly and sit down together with a cup of something so that you can sniff at each other like tomcats but lately acquainted. Listen to their troubles and share their joys. They will have their tempers and you will have yours, and sometimes you will not understand a book, nor will it understand you—you can’t love all books any more than you can love every stranger you meet. But you can love a lot of them. And the love of a book is a precious, subtle, strange thing, well worth earning.
You see, the ways we can learn to love books and love people are essentially the same. The more we open ourselves up to the world of a book, the more we should be able to open ourselves up to the many worlds of the people who surround us. 

Here’s how Catherynne concludes:
And just like people, you are never really done with a book—some part of it will stay with you, gently changing the way you see and speak and know.
When we approach both books and people with open hearts and open minds, they can help to transform us into something much better and brighter than we possibly could have become on our own. And one of the beauties of both books and people is that there are always more that we can get to know. 

Our heroine, September, befriends a wyverary (part wyvern, part library).

Along similar lines, elsewhere in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland one of the characters explains why being bookish can be such an adventure: 
Of course, a library is never complete. That’s the joy of it. We are always seeking one more book to add to our collection.
If we can learn to see our lives as expansive, ever-growing libraries (of both books and people), we can also learn to love more frequently and fiercely. This is “bookish-ness” in its highest and holiest sense.

Next time, Catherynne’s third (and final) piece of wisdom on the importance of reading books.

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