(photo by Josiah Norton)
What is the thing that gets you the most excited? What do you spend a majority of your free time doing? If someone were to ask you, “What is your favorite thing to do in the world,” what would you say? What gives you life? I’ve known the answer to these questions my whole life, and the answer is: read.
I love reading. More than anything. There are very few things that don’t feel like they are stealing me away from time spent reading. It’s hard to explain the sense of urgency I have about books. I feel compelled by some inner force to read as much as possible, and it’s hard to describe why. It just seems that the stories people tell, or the language used to convey facts and meaning and nuance and depth and emotion are just so important. A book is the lifeblood of the person who wrote it. Someone cared so much about this story, this event in history, these emotions, that they could not contain it, had to get it out on paper, needed to share it with someone who would listen. I understand that compulsion, and I feel that same drive to honor their work by giving my time to the words they are offering me.
One of my “resolutions” this year was to read one book per week, and so far, I am a week ahead of myself. I adore spending time with each book, learning its characters, its author, its metaphors. But if I’m spending longer than I feel I should, I begin to feel guilty because there is just SO much else out there! How will I ever get to it all? A few years ago I bought the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die book, and I calculated that if I read only books from this list, one per week, it would take me about 20 years to read them all. So that felt really disappointing, because how am I supposed to keep up with all the beautiful writing that is coming out fresh from the minds and presses of today’s writers? They deserve my attention too! And let’s not forget my three magazine subscriptions I receive every month, or all the blogs I keep up with. Or the news. I need to know the past to better understand my present, but I need the present to prepare for the future. It’s all necessary! It’s all beautiful! It’s all so, so important.
I just find so much beauty in story and language. Somehow, through the turning of a phrase, a short but poignant description, or even in the silence of what isn’t being said, so much depth of human emotion and story is told, and that connects us. It brings up those emotions inside of us. If we allow it, language can help us heal. It can make us vulnerable or prickly as we choose, but often when we’re alone with a book, we feel a bit better about letting our guard down and feeling those emotions coming up from the well deep within us.
I need to read because I need to find out more about who I am, about what this world is like, about how others do life, about how I can become a better person. Reading wakes me up, makes me alive, excited, passionate. For me, it feels like the most important thing I do. It is the thing I love most in this world. It awakens the beauty in the world, transposes it, and gives me wings.