What a marvellous thing it is, to be transported to another place, another time, all whilst consuming a well-crafted cup of tea.
Perhaps the places are not where we could imagine ourselves ever truly going – be it for political, financial or moral reasons – but we find ourselves there anyway; in a backstreet in New York City; a slum in Lagos; a rabidly violent and sexual fantasy-world that may see you die just as you start liking something about yourself.
Perhaps the people are not ones we would normally meet, or wish we didn’t have to: the vilest and the most beautiful; the pretentious and the humble. Heroes and villains and those who fit somewhere in between are scrawled across pages and volumes, to seep amongst the shelves with deeds and blasphemes. Are they people we would want to be? Are they people we can fall in love with, or cry with? Have we found new friends who will never know our names?
A key question I always wonder is whether I will become so lost in this place, people, story I am reading that I forget that I’m reading at all? I hope with every breath that I do. It is all that readers want from a book, to feel so enraptured and so engrossed within the written word that we stop reading and just experience. It becomes a lightness, a wave on which we surf with abandon.
It’s an experience that many can link to movies or TV or plays or videogames or art. And I agree, there is an opportunity there, a sliver of escapism or understanding that creative media can pass on to the world. But there is something so contained within the act of reading a book, something so personal and intimate and entirely our own. Reading means, in a sense, that the work belongs to us in a way that visual media can never do. We are given descriptions, yes, but my version of the world I read may be entirely different from yours. It’s an individual experience that can be shared by everyone.
Reading’s the best.