eing of a solitary nature, books have ever been a constant companion in my life. From the time at which I was told I wasn’t as smart with reading as the other children in my class, up until the moment I type this and (hopefully) beyond, books have been imbedded in my life in one way or another. While my early experiences with books were antagonistic and bullying, over the years I developed an uneasy understanding with them. I’d give more books a chance if they agreed to keep the antics of Dick and Jane to themselves. I didn’t need to know that Matt sat on a mat with his bat and his pet cat, thank you very much, but if they wanted to tell me about dragons and vampires and what on earth Nancy Drew was up to this week, that would be just fine.
It wasn’t long before books constituted the bulk of my social interactions and a full half of the time that should have been devoted to sleeping. Around this time I learned the benefit of reading by moonlight. My parents, who were at first overjoyed with what a scholarly child they were raising, were quickly dismayed by the deep, black circles forming under my eyes. Smart, bookish children wore eyeglasses. Sick, drug-addled zombie children wore bags under their eyes. My light-bulbs were taken away after 9pm.
By high school, I was voraciously consuming novels at the expense of my studies. I pridefully penned a few disasters. I knew I wanted to make these little magic parallelepipeds. In college I was accused of reading for fun. Accused. As if the only reading anyone should ever do is that which is mandated by another human being. Reading, and by extension learning, is only ever done on a voluntary basis. You have to want to pick up a book and know what’s inside it. Reading for fun, then, is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, at times I read for the pleasure of it, I read to be entertained, but for the most part I read because books are gateways into another mind. Books are how we communicate with each other as a species through time and space. Books are flammable little time machines and mind reading devices that can fit in a tote bag, in most cases. Books are goddamn magic!
It is the exceptionally old books that are the most magical of all. The ones so old they are nearly legend. The ones with cracked and crumbling pages, the ones written in dead languages, the ones scribbled by long gone monks with frost bitten fingers and cramps in their shoulders. These are little pockets of the past that have bubbled up from the soup of our collective cultures to float on the surface of modernity as proof that we have a history. Hand crafted and meticulously illustrated these old, old books pass up the knowledge of those who lived hundreds of years earlier.
Today, we have the internet, we have satellites and a probe on a damn comet. We have microwaves and vaccines and air travel. But books written thousands of years ago have given us something even better: a doorway into the past, and a way to carry our thoughts immortally forward into the future.