I have spent the past 5 hours reading. Not leisurely browsing various online articles or skimming through a magazine but reading. Passionately. The kind of reading where you all of a sudden realize that the room is completely dark apart from your reading lamp and that you desperately need to go to the bathroom and haven’t had a cigarette for hours. That kind of reading. As a child I used to do this all the time, but the older I get the less I do it. Time issues I suppose. When you are a kid you have more time to get devoured by books. Or if it’s the other way around, I am not sure. Probably both. I also think there’s an element of sin to it as you get older. Like it would somehow be a waste of time. You are neglecting not only your bodily functions, but also your other tasks and duties when you dive into a book for hours on end. But seriously, so what? Considering all the time that’s wasted on watching TV in this world it seems strange that getting sucked in by a book for a couple of hours should be a bad thing. Reading is almost never a waste of time. I say almost, because I have wasted a number of hours on books in my days. Not many, but there have been times when I have felt like writing to the publisher to demand a warning text on the cover of the book. But mostly it’s not a waste of time.
I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but in my world there is nothing that can capture me as a book can. Nothing. When I watch movies either my thoughts will start to wander or I will start improving the plot in my mind. I will do this either by just thinking about how the story could get better, or I will really think that the story is better than it actually is and get all excited. That’s when my best friend will usually shake his head and tell me that “no you’re just making the story better again. It’s not that complex”. And he’s always right. It never is that complex. But the reason I’m doing this is because I am bored. And I am not saying there’s anything wrong with movies, there are many great movies out there, but a movie has never managed to catch me the way books do. Never. Reading a book is like entering another dimension, a parallel universe. When I read I am actually not here. I am there. In there. In the story. My physical body may still be in the room, but the rest of me is in another dimension. Another universe.
But not all books will suck you in for hours on end and only let you come up for air when your physical body is calling you back to reality, some books will not take hours, but days, maybe weeks, to read. And not because they aren’t good or interesting. No, they grab me just as hard, but in another way. Demian by Hermann Hesse was like that. I think it took me two weeks to read that book. And that’s not because it’s got Dostoyevsky dimensions, quite the opposite, but because it’s just so powerful. On almost every page of that book there is something that just shoots you out in to the intellectual universe and you will spend hours reflecting on all the thoughts that one passage triggered in your mind. It just keeps on blowing your mind. And that’s why it takes time. You need time to process all that’s happening in you. That’s the kind of books that change you. The kind of books where you come out on the other side as a different person.
Then there are books where you’re just rejoicing at the beauty of the language or the genius way in which the story is told. Brilliant books that just has you in awe over the pure craftsmanship. Books where you just go “wow”.
The thing about reading books is that you get to process the information in your own pace. You decide for yourself how much time you need to grasp what’s happening. You can go back and read a passage again, you can even skip pages if you like, it’s all up to you. You get to pace yourself. It’s all on your terms. And you can bring a book with you. It’s like carrying around a gateway to other dimensions that you can just open and step through at will. Like a portable parallel universe. There is a certain element of magic to that.
When I look at my bookcase I see a myriad of worlds. Like a universe condensed within the covers. All these journeys ready to be embarked on. Worlds built by words. Worlds you can enter at will. Revisit if you like or just keep in fond memory. Worlds filled with people I feel like I know. Some of the characters in the books feel almost as real to me as my friends and my memories of them and what we’ve been through together are just as strong as of “real” people. I’ve shared my late teen angst with Richard in “the Secret History”, pondered my sanity or lack thereof with Deborah Blau in “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” and contemplated the ever-changing yet constant nature of the world with Orlando. They are all a part of me, they have left their imprints in me, and they have been instrumental in the process of becoming who I am. All these people in all these books. And the best of all is that I know there’s much more to come. All these wonderful journeys within reach right at the tip of my fingers. All I have to do is pick up a book and open the covers and start reading and just wait to be transformed once again.