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I have been pondering this question lately, and wondering what it is about a book that appeals to readers.
Is it the way we can escape into a good book and forget what’s happening in our actual lives?
Is the mark of a good book that you put a bit of yourself into it and learn something new about yourself when you finish?
Is it the way that a book can be so amazing and addictive that the story remains in your consciousness for days after finishing it?
I’ve always found comfort in reading a book, often reading late into the night! It’s just one of those things which remains a constant pleasure, because once a book is written then it can’t be changed (well, depending what sort of book it is), and it’s nice to be able to pick up a old favourite and read it again years later, knowing it hasnt changed. However, your viewpoint can change, especially if you read a book as a naive child and when you read it again in your adulthood you realise what that word that confused you as a child actually means, or you pick out the unexpected sexual innuendoes that occur in a book. I have found that, after studying English at university, i now come across things in books which totally surprise me the second time round! I say a book never changes, but the meaning can change as you grow up and learn more about the world.
What amused me upon finishing my English degree was that i realised that the whole degree was about finding sexual innuendoes in any book you read! ( It might be that i was just fortunate enough to study a selection of books over my three years which all had varying degrees of sexual references in them). Ok, so that’s probably not the point of the degree, but to me that’s what my overall summary of it was!
In my childhood, i obviously had a lot of time to read books, so i read all the time, whether it was during breaktime at school, on the way home from school, or late into the night. My parents didnt know just how late at night i used to read my books! Once i got engrossed in a book, it would take something very big to stop me reading it! I remember one day when visiting my grandad, one of the Harry Potter books (possibly book number 4 – it was a big one!) had just come out and my copy arrived the morning of our visit, so i read it on the journey in the car, and then when we got to my grandad’s at any spare moment i was reading it! This is how addictive books were for me!
Although these days i havent got as much time as i would like to read, i do find myself reading before i go to sleep at night sometimes, but most often i now read on the train to and from university as its a fair 45 minute commute.
I love the smell of books, especially the freshly printed scent of a new book plucked off the shelf in a bookshop or sent in the post. There is something comforting in that papery smell which is hard to describe. There is also that joy of the brand new book sitting in perfect condition, just waiting for you to open it and explore its contents and put your mark on it.
I also love the smell of old books. I know they sometimes smell kind of musty and strange, but its nice to think how many people have read it and how much that book has given pleasure to many other readers over its lifetime. I know some people prefer new books which havnt been defiled or tainted by random people, but its still nice to feel a sense of history in an old book.
Some books stay with you forever, while others are forgotten, whether deliberately or not (“deliberately” would apply to those you may have read at school and hated with a vengence!). Its always nice when you come across a book you once read and feel that comforting feeling that it is familiar and brings back a bit of your past.
Books which have affected me in a profound way include:
- Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – The sense of religion, death, and the sad separation of the protagonists all moved me deeply at the tender age of about 11/12
- George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – The very real threat of Big Brother scared me and made me think about the impact of governmental power over the population ( i even used this book in my undergraduate dissertation)
- Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – This book made me realise how far people will go to preserve the human race, even as far as alienating and dehumanising women and turning them against each other. This brought out the feminist inside me! (Also used in my dissertation)
These are just a few of the books which i have read which left an impression on me, particularly because they are the ones sitting on the shelf by my desk! (I can’t think of any more just now, but if i do i’ll add them to this blog at a later date.)
I’m curious as to what everyone else likes about books (talking mainly about traditional print books, but feel free to add your thoughts on Ebooks.)
What attracts you to a book? Do you agree that some books stay with you for a long time?
Feel free to post your examples of books which have affected you in some way!