A Certified Bibliophile

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 

- Marcus Tullius Cicero

Squint hard, and you may find a few kindred souls perched on the shelves ... maybe, definitely!

"Why do we read?"

To me, this question is one of the most profound questions that defy a simple answer. Surely, someone would say "Because we MUST!" and then walk away, smugly satisfied in providing a pseudo-intellectual edict that we are expected to abide by. I think that this answer (and those similar in vein) skirts the real issue of why and instead diverts our attention to the superficial act of doing it. I also think that we may never be able to provide the definitive answer to this question as the very act of reading a book is a very intimate conversation between the author and the reader, eavesdroppers not allowed. So why, this literary meandering into the deep forests of a decidedly unknowable answer?

I believe that books (at least the well written ones) are a means to satisfy a primal human curiosity about the worlds that they live in - both material, and of imagination. They are a conduit into a universe that perhaps, may have lived a richer, fuller life than ours. Carl Sagan famously remarked in Cosmos - "Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." Reading allows the audience to converse with the author long after death claims the author. Although most of these conversations tend to be slightly uni-directional in nature, a truly great writer can shape the narrative anticipating the questions a curious reader may ask, thereby facilitating a two-way conversation.

Along with communication, the other important aspect of book reading that affects me closely is the act of co-creation. A decent writer merely chronicles the events unfolding in the story, a good writer makes these events come alive. But the most successful writer is one who gives the reader just enough explicit instructions to understand the world, and then proceeds to weave an almost limitless color palette for the reader to employ in their imagination! My most favorite books are those that unfold behind my eyes like a movie, frame by frame, word by word. The magic of world-building, of narrative development and then seeing the characters inhabit these worlds with abandon, is the closest humans can get to the act of creation, vicariously.

A good story touches upon the aesthetic, intellectual, as well as emotional hunger present in all of us. A good story inspires us to be a better version of ourselves. A good story also takes us down the darkest recesses of our minds, laying them bare for us to conquer the darkness within. But not all stories are make-believe. Some also challenge the readers on a fundamental level, ask hard questions about morality, socio-economic issues, and expect honest answers from us! No matter what genre of story-telling we prefer, I think we would all agree that few pleasures in life compare to the simple task of immersing oneself into a good story, a steaming cup of tea/coffee at hand, oblivious to the passage of time! 

Books remain, and shall always be, my best friends. I have never known a life without one, and I suspect I shall possibly never live a day without one too! In the spirit of all things bibliophilic, forthcoming book reviews will focus on books and stories about, well, books and stories!

Also, leave your thoughts in the comments section below - fellow bibliophiles are always welcome to my world!

Happy Reading!