I love C.S. Lewis’s powerfully simple answer:
We read to know we are not alone.
We learn we are not alone in our struggle to make sense of this world. We learn that everyone throughout time struggles with various aspects of hope and despair, good and evil, love and hate, along with all the varying degrees of our emotional makeup as humans. Stories are what we share of our ourselves that make us human.
As readers, we applaud or scorn various books and viewpoints. As writers, we have the job of examining the depths of human consciousness and experience to try and make an entertaining or inspiring story. Readers and writers become intrinsically connected by this sharing.
Reading a good book makes us a little bigger than we were before. We’ve entered a new world, met new people and vicariously experienced their lives. A well turned out phrase can imprint an image or idea within us, changing our essence in subtle ways we are not even aware of.
I’m thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Until I read it, I rarely thought of dandelions as anything more than weeds (or wild herbs to be generous). But there’s another perspective on just about everything isn’t there? Bradbury’s grandfather saw the flowers as the perfect choice for making his summer wine. Those ‘golden flowers that flooded the world, dripped off lawns onto brick streets, tapped softly at crystal cellar windows and agitated themselves so that on all sides lay the dazzle and glitter of molten sun.’
I could have spent my whole life thinking of dandelions as undesirable and needing of eradication and I’m sure I’d be just fine. But reading this book about Bradbury’s childhood, so rich in description and high value instilled in small ‘insignificant’ things sends ripples of change throughout my consciousness.
As a reader, once I absorb a good book, it becomes part of who I am.
What books stand out in your mind as having a great influence on how you think…and for writers, how you write.