There aren't very many things I can think of that I couldn't live without, beyond the expected: food, water, air, shelter. My family--I could never leave them, cut them out, and survive. The sky, the sun, the wind. Being outside. I feel like that might spell ruin for me--being trapped inside all day. And books. I think if I could never read again, never get lost in a story, I would just cease to exist.
It sounds dramatic, but I wouldn't say it if it weren't true. Reading is as vital to me as breathing, books an integral part of my identity. I think of books sometimes as a kind of sustenance. They feed my brain, nourish my soul, soothe my anxious heart. I think I would survive if I could never write again, though it would be difficult to do--I could still compose in my head, think up stories, the way I might say something. But if I could never read again? Forget it.
The problem is that it would be like losing a friend. Isn't that how a good story feels? You get to participate in a character's life, watch as they go through their own lives. Weren't we all there at Hogwarts? Didn't we all go on an unexpected journey? Didn't I watch as four lives intertwined in Appalachia? Didn't I see the rise and fall of family, of brothers, as they grappled over the burden of their heritages? I've traveled to worlds with people I'll never meet off the page, lived a thousand lives through someone else's eyes. There are books I go back to, over and over again, to visit my old friends. I love the feeling of a new book, the small thrill of anticipation that comes with the beginning of a promising story. I love bookstores, how much possibility they hold. I love libraries. I love talking about books. I love talking about books, with anyone who will listen. I love that my friends will eagerly answer the question, read any good books lately? with a rundown of all the books they've read lately.
The thing is too that they have always been there for me too. I have always reached for a book, first, before anything else. When I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm tired, when I need to escape, when I need to stay. Even when I'm drunk, and I have to go back and re-read the pages I "read" the night before. I can't think of the last night I went to sleep without cracking a spine first. I don't know if I could, anymore. I spend my days off curled up with a book, I read on the bus, I read while I'm brushing my teeth. I read while I cook, the book open next to the stove. My aunt and uncle gave me socks for Christmas that said, Fuck off, I'm reading. Now I don't even have to say anything, I just pull up my pant leg! And every boyfriend I've ever had has, at some point, said to me a version of this: my love, can you just close the book for a minute? Are you even here?
You know, now that I write it out, maybe that's why I'm single? But whatever. I need a movie that's less Must Love Dogs and more Must Love Books (except they also must love dogs). I guess we could consider You've Got Mail as the Must Love Books version, except in that one the small, charming bookstore closes, so actually I think the point remains.
But I digress. I really just wanted to put it out there, how much books mean to me. A public service announcement of sorts. I don't think I can say it enough, how much I care about reading. How much the very heart of me is made up of the stories I've consumed, the characters I've known, the ways I've learned to live from the books I've read. To all the readers out there, I'm with you. Now I'm off to go read a book.