In my first post, I addressed some of the attributes that set true book lovers apart from people who simply enjoy reading. But there’s another very important difference I didn’t mention, mainly because I realized it was entire post on it’s own.
Books make us feel.
Wait, what? Books make lots of people feel! If you read something you like, it makes you happy. If you read something you don’t like..well, maybe you don’t even finish it in that case. But it leaves a negative taste in your mouth just the same. That’s not what I mean, though. Pretty much all readers have some sort of emotional reaction to books they read, no matter how minor. I’m talking about something deeper. For true bibliophiles, every book is a red thread. We live the lives of the characters, we feed off their emotions, their hopes and dreams, their successes and failures. And if one of them dies? Best to be in another room.
But it’s when books provoke a physical reaction that things tend to get even messier.
The first time my parents had an inkling that perhaps I was experiencing books in a, shall we say, deeper manner than they realized, I was too young to understand what was happening. I think I was in second grade, maybe third, and we were reading fairytales in school. One day we read The Snow Queen. I don’t remember anything about it except that I came home from school rubbing my eye and complaining that it hurt. This apparently went on for the rest of the night and a bit into the next day. After ascertaining that there indeed was not anything wrong with my eye, my parents were confused. What could be causing this?
Most of you probably have the answer by now, but for us, it was a big revelation. There’s a section in the story where the little boy, Kay, turns evil because an mirror shard falls into his eye. Apparently, I was so connected to the story that *I* felt the pain of this shard, and it stuck with me.
This amazingly strong emotional connection is something that I still experience to this day. If a character I’m particularly attached to becomes physically injured in a book, I’ll feel it in the same spot. (Chest wounds are the worst, let me tell you!) The same is true with movies, though that’s probably a bit more understandable, since there are direct images to process. But I know I’m far from the only one to experience this emotional-physical connection. I’ve met other bibliophiles who share these feelings, who become so intensely drawn into the world that it has real-life consequences.
In some ways, this is probably not a good thing. It makes it hard for me to read certain stories. It’s the main reason I stay away from horror and anything with a lot of drawn-out, tension-filled plots. Physical or mental torture is a huge no-no.
And I still can’t read The Snow Queen without feeling weird. Just writing this is making my eye twitch.
But at the same time, it allows me to fully immerse myself in the author’s world, and turns reading into a truly active experience. When I say reading gives me the chance to live a thousand different lives, I mean that literally. It’s an amazing experience.
So even if you don’t have this connection to the same depth, I challenge you to make reading an active hobby. Don’t just sit in a chair and read about someone else’s life. Experience it for yourself. Live with them. You’ll be glad you did.