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by Sam Villanueva, staff writer

photo by Lilly Quaid

Can you remember the last book you read? Do you remember the characters, their situations, their world? At one point, even if you can’t stand the way a character acts or the boring nature of another, there was a point that made you stop and think. Through good and bad books, I always get this feeling. It’s a feeling that I’m addicted to, one I’ll never be able to get over. That’s the power of words: they pull at your brain and give you truths that you didn’t know you needed to hear. They give different meanings, different perspectives, and different insights.

It doesn’t even matter when the book takes place, whether it’s in the 1800’s or 2000’s or even 3000’s. What matters are the situations that play out in these books, and how the ordeals of the characters mirror our own. I see myself, or my friend, or my parents, or society as a whole in every book that I read. In “The Great Gatsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I noticed the similarities I shared with Nick such as having a reflective nature. In” The Girl on the Train”, by Paula Hawkins, I see the destructive nature of the characters mirrored in the lives around me. In “Black Boy”, by Richard Wright, I share his appreciation for stories and the idea that “words are weapons”. That’s what makes representation so important–we see these lives , fictional or not, that so vividly describe what we thought was only true to our own lives. And, in the words of Alan Bennett, “It is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”

Books are a view of the personal lives of the author, lives that people may relate to. Writing is like a release for authors. Being in a place where they can’t express themselves through actions or spoken words, they find comfort in writing, where they can morph their problems into intricate metaphors and symbols. And if the reader tries hard enough, they can understand those very situations, and even learn from those to go on to help others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books that pushed me to understand and help others. I read a book about a girl dealing with anorexia that helped me understand my friend’s struggle with it. I read books about cancer that taught me how to be there for someone living with the same disease. I read books about death, about love, about anything you could possibly imagine, and make sense of my reality through their words.

I can’t help but associate everything with a book I’ve read. For every song I listen to, for every place I visit, for even a season, and month, and  word, I link to a book. When I go camping every Labor Day, I recall reading “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth between the trees. As leaves turn to shades of red and gold, the plot of “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne slips in my mind. When I listen to “Sun It Rises” by Fleet Foxes, I’m transported back to the melancholy ending of “In The Afterlight” by Alexandra Bracken. It’s like a reflex, a habit that I just can’t help. Books have infiltrated every part of my life, and I love it more than anything.

It’s ironic how I’m writing about my love of literature, yet I can’t seem to find the words to explain it. I’m sitting here, turning words and metaphors over in my head, trying to figure out how I can prove the significant role that books have played in my life. How can I? Words can’t even describe the amount of appreciation I feel for these stories. I turned to books when my best friend transferred schools, when I felt more alone than I thought possible, when I needed to make sense of an awful situation. I longed for stories before I could even read, improvising with my own interpretations of illustrations in my favorite picture books. Reading became like coming to the most welcoming home, and by the time I finished reading, I wanted to stay even longer. Books are my refuge, and without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. So when I hear someone label reading as “boring”, I know their words hold much less weight than the ones I have come to know and love.

 

Book Recommendations:

“The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly

This has absolutely achieved the title of my favorite book in 2015. So much was to be learned from this book, and so much to be felt. This is a book about books, to put it simply. The protagonist, David, has always found comfort in reading. But when his mother dies, everything in his life is suddenly morphed into a nightmare. One day, his mother speaks to him through books, telling him to come rescue her from a world of fairytales gone wrong.

This book brought me back to how I viewed reading as a child: magical. But it took a dark twist on that childhood fantasy. It exposed the reality of our lives, and how the world is full of awful and unfair tragedies that no matter what you do, you can’t change. Not everything is good, not everything turns out the way you want, but we must find happiness and goodness within that very darkness. David did just that in “The Book of Lost Things”, all through John Connolly’s beautiful writing.