“Books are like imprisoned souls until someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.” – Samuel Butler
Today is National Read a Book Day. Readers are why authors exist, and from what I’ve seen over the years, all novelists started out as avid readers, developing a love for storytelling and the power of words. How evocative this opening is to The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde:
“The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.”
My parents read to me all the time when I was very little, and once I learned how to read, trips to the local library were some of the highlights of my childhood and teen years. When I was fourteen, my boyfriend introduced me to the Lord of the Rings saga, which I read in three days over the Christmas break, closeted in my room apart from bathroom breaks and the odd meal. I was heartbroken when the book ended, the story had been so vivid and captivating. (On the other hand, my hubby, when I introduced it to him, found it far too wordy, but in all fairness high fantasy is not his genre.)
I learned a lot of my vocabulary from books, enough to impress my high school English teachers anyway. Hubby and I have discussed many times how the average English curriculum (at least in our day) would have done much better to introduce students to enthralling books instead of the heavy ‘classics’ we were required to read. To this day, I think The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the dreariest books I’ve ever come across. I did love Shakespeare, though, and was lucky enough to be able to see all of his comedies performed live at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario.
Books have helped me get through some of the toughest times in my life by offering a much-needed escape from reality for a while. Armchair travel with a great travel guide has brightened many a grey and chilly winter day over the years (the gorgeously-illustrated DK Eyewitness Guides are my favourite). A cup of tea and my favourite spot on the sofa, mystery/mayhem/adventure, characters that leap off the page and stories that I want to read again and again – tickets to another world that I can live in for a while. What’s not to love?
In the immortal words of the Brothers Grimm, “Once upon a time…” (Grimm’s Fairy Tales)
All photos are by me unless otherwise specified, and all rights are reserved. E. Jurus