The Magic of Books and Literary Discovery

I am in love with the written word. Beautiful books, well-crafted stories and elaborately typeset fonts are intoxicating to me. Books take me on magical adventures, challenge my inner-most thoughts, make my laugh and cry, inspire me to be a better me.  Yes, there are special powers hidden inside the well-written word, as once you become exposed to new ideas and new learning, there is no turning back.

“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” –Cassandra Clare

Reading was a wonderful escape for me as a child. In the corner of my parent’s living room was a full-length bookcase that my father had built out of salvage lumber from his job as a warehouse supervisor at a power plant. Shelf after shelf, the case was full of novels, encyclopedias and story collections that seemed endless. Sparse as it was, it was a priceless collection for our family. Playing in that room was forbidden, but we were allowed to be in the room for two reasons:  practicing piano and reading.  I spent time there doing both.

When those books were exhausted, the local public library offered a whole new world of literary discovery.  While their collection was limited, I could lose myself for hours in the resources they had offered. The smell of lignin – that sweet vanilla and grassy smells that comes from old paper and ink – filled the air. I could discover forgotten stories and series that took me on journeys I still remember. I visited far-away places, learned poise and etiquette, discovered people and events that I could be a part of for all of time. Those lost days in the stacks of that little library were a big part of my post-secondary education and I am forever grateful.

Yesterday, I sat with my daughter and helped her with a literary reflection she is having to write for school. It is a challenging project for her and one I enjoy sharing with her. The book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, is a book for young readers that challenges you to think about faith, freedom and explores the topic of change.  It is a heavy subject for a 10-year-old and the process of reading the book and completing the many assignments has become a foundation for many topics of discussion around our home.

In the early stages of discussing her impressions of the book, it was clear the theme and topic confused and overwhelmed her. But as she continues to read – and we discuss and explore her feelings – I see her coming alive with new ideas and opinions on the themes and topics central to the story.  “Eureka!” I think to myself, “She’s getting it!” She is thinking, learning; I could not be more proud!

She’s already a voracious reader, and has been since we read to her for hours on end as a baby. But now, I am watching her make that transition from reading for pure entertainment, to reading to expand her mind and challenge her thinking, I know we’ve converted another to the world of literary magic.

Books are a gift. I am thankful for the ability to read and for the seemingly limitless access I have to wonderful works of amazing authors everywhere. I am grateful for the freedom to read what I want – religious or otherwise – and know that I can openly discuss the ideas and inspirations these writers inspire. I still prefer the heft of a book and the smell of old linen to my ebooks, but I will read in whatever form of media I can get my hands on.

Making reading and the quest for knowledge a part of your daily routine. Daily learning is, most definitely, a key to an outrageously wonderful life!

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