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Books: The greatest escape

Open a book to find yourself on Mars, in Westeros, in 18th Century Lallybroch, and anywhere in between…

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are — Mason Cooley

A book is the greatest escape. A place to go when you can’t go anywhere. As any good bookworm will know, opening a book is like diving into another world. Anyone can go, and on a relatively modest budget — especially if you’re reading e-books.

Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere — Mary Schmich

I’ve travelled the world as a poor student backpacker (as a slightly more cashed up professional), but I’ve gone farther and wider in my own home, within the pages of a book. I’ve gone to places that have never existed, visited places that have slipped into history, and landed in places that may exist one day but are currently still within the realms of science fiction or dystopian fiction. Not only that, but I’ve seen my own neighbourhood through completely different eyes, walked the same streets as the characters in a book, and wondered if they’re really there, watching me go by.

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one — George R. R. Martin

Reading is the most immersive of the creative escapes. Movies might be a quicker fix than a book — you can ingest a story in a couple of hours with a movie, while you’ll be investing five hours or more reading a book, and substantially more if you’re reading a series like the Game of Thrones or Outlander — but books are the only medium where you can see through someone else’s point-of-view and live vicariously through that story’s narrator.

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul — Joyce Carol Oates

I’ve seen the world through the eyes of an astronaut, a wizard, a hobbit, a WWII combat nurse, a Regency woman seeking a husband, a detective, a cyborg, a magician, a time traveller, a ghost hunter, a misfit, and many, many others. Every time we slip into another person’s life, and share their perspective, it helps us to understand the world, and the other people that share it with us. When we read fiction, we develop empath for others, we understand others, more than we did before. I have written on that before, check it out here:

Books are a uniquely portable magic — Stephen King

Books are the original Tardis — that is, bigger on the inside. Entirely fictional worlds can be brought to life within several hundred pages. Just think, in a few hundred pages we can take the ideas of one person (the author) and the lives and worlds and stories of their character, and put those ideas into words. We can then print and bind those words together to go out into the world, and find their way into the hands of a reader. The reader then takes those words and breathes life into them in their own imagination, travelling into the skins of imaginary people to experience their lives for awhile. In those pages, we can experience love, despair and everything else in-between. Those ideas, held together by print on a page, can help us to understand the world a little better. Don’t tell me there’s not magic in that.

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free — Frederick Douglass

We might be stuck with the body we’re born into, the mortgage we struggle to pay off, and the job we need to pay the bills, but our imaginations are limitless.

Not convinced? Start with a book. If you can read, you can escape.

Because what is reading, but dreaming with our eyes open?

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