Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Things I Have Learnt About Life Through Books

When my world comes to an abrupt halt the first I do is reach for a book, be it new or an old favourite. I seek the familiar feel of a creamy-bonded paper and the rise and fall of plot line. I rely on the author to turn my world from sap-like grey to a churning-spotlight of cherry red, I want the characters to envelop me into their flaws and take me away from my own. The old saying of reading is escapism.

I revolt in anger with the French Revolution, I fall in love with an Austen novel, I yearn for more with Victor Hugo, and I roll-about in magical wit with Dahl. I can find a book for every mood, crisis and emotional distress – books heal, well in my books they do.

I pleaded to my tweeps on twitter, what they have learned about life through books:

Tammy February

Lesson: Sometimes fiction, no matter how terrible a character's circumstances are, is still sometimes better than reality.

Cat Hellisen

That magic is real. Even if it's just real in our heads.

Rene Brophy

Don't skip pages, it's all about the journey.

Lood du Plessis

A friend is more likely to betray you than an enemy.

Great answers, aren’t they? So with the heart of books teaching and guiding, I have to confess the full extent of learning from my dealings with books:

The greatest gift my parents gave me was a book, the paper cuts hurt but the world looks better from the edge of a book.

It’s an incredibly personal act, like running or crafting a piece of art, the act of reading becomes so incredibly personal, that you ultimately become your reading habits. It wasn’t until a week ago, an encounter that had me trying to decipher someone, I asked what their favourite book was, and the answer no doubt 'I have a top 50 that always changes' made me grin, because I have been there. It tells me that the person is open minded, and isn’t solidified in one genre.

I know that fantasy readers are usually people with high moral standings, and unending imaginations – these readers are the best to have as friends; 
Non-fiction readers, value knowledge, are out-of-the-box thinkers and usually prefer numbers to words – these readers make great doctors and accountants (don’t forget the self-help junkies who love knowing what makes people tick, and those travel-ites who can journey to the ends of the earth from a book);

Sci-fi readers are an amalgamation of the above two categories, they thrive of the technicalities and the off-road (or earth) adventures.  

Then you get the classic readers, they will always tell you that they were ‘born in the wrong time’ – they were, they are the traditionalists, the art seekers and the language makers. 

Your fiction readers are simply not filled toe to head in fanciful imagination – they are sorted by taste: Crime, Chicklit and Literary. Ranging from those who are curious, thrill-seekers, perhaps wanting that escapism, those are your crime/mystery readers. Chicklit/romance readers love to be pampered; they adore the soft feeling of yearning, the burst of laughter that bubbles up at quirky moments and the harsh realities of life; probably pertaining to their own lives. Literary lovers are the next of kin for your classic readers, they love the lyrical and loose haiku’s that a great author has to give.

It is almost like judging a book by its cover, you know it’s bad but, secretly, we all do it anyway. Reading doesn’t really make you the person you are, it does however condition you into who you want to be, a favourite character, a writing style or even a time period.  
Local fiction writer Steven Boykey Sidley said at the launch of his new novel, Stepping Out, ‘Non-fiction taught me the facts of life, but it was fiction that taught me how to live my life’.
Reading conditions, shines and simplifies – so if I ask you what your favourite book is, know that I am simply figuring out who you are.
So what is your favourite book?


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