I've been traveling in my head through reading even since I can remember. It's taken me places I have never been. And taught me things I could not have learned elsewhere. Just the other day my husband asked me to define a word he'd encountered in a book he was reading. The word had to do with horses and horseback riding. I gave a detailed explanation and he looked up at me..."Where in the world did you learn that? he asked." And, crazy as it sounds, I remembered it from a Trixie Belden book I had read as a kid. I mean, Trixie and Honey rode all the time, how could I not know stuff about horses?
My mum says that as a child I used to tell her long, descriptive stories about the books I was reading, using gestures to show how big something was or waving my hands mimicking the action of the characters. She says that sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between something I had read and something I had actually experienced. The books I read took me places that seemed entirely real to me.
I can't remember a time in my life when I did not have at least two books on the go, and a couple waiting 'on deck.'
|My collection of much loved Maggie Muggins books. Mary Grannan was my mum's grade one teacher.|
I come by this obsession with books honestly... I am a third generation voracious reader. My maternal grandmother was an avid reader, though where she found the time while raising eight kids and boarding two hired men who worked for my grandfather, I'll never know. I have heard stories of my grandmother going to visit her sister when they were both well up in age.... the two of them reading long into the night and talking back and forth about what they were reading from their respective bedrooms. I love to imagine their bedside lamps throwing pools of light out into the darkened hallway and their quiet voices drifting back and forth. My mum's cousin said she remembers falling asleep to the murmuring of Grammy and Aunt Gertie.
My mum at 86 still reads all the time. Like me, she gets lost in a book.... sometimes coming up for air and taking a few minutes to realize where she is... or maybe what century it is. Once after spending an hour or two totally engrossed in Watership Down, she walked down the road to a neighbour's house. As she walked she saw the nose of a small rabbit peek out at her from the long grass on the side of the road. She said she had to stand there for a minute, shaking her head to make sure that it was real.... that she wasn't seeing imaginary rabbits! I love that story.
When I was in high school Mum and I shared a total love for Catherine Cookson. We adored her books set in Northern England: we read them, swapped them, talked about them. And then even started talking like them. "When is our Carolyn coming to stay?" "Pass the salt hinny." Then we'd laugh and no one else ever got the joke.
|My shelf of favourite Canadian Lit.|
|Some more of my favourite books|
Right now I'm listening to an Ann Cleeves book, Dead Water, set in the Shetland Islands. I love hearing the book read by someone who sounds like I imagine the characters would sound. Listening to that book, takes me there, to the Shetland Islands, and makes me want to go there, and makes me think of similar places where I've already been.... all at the same time.
|Hoy in the Orkney Islands. Not the Shetlands...but similar, maybe?|
Penelope Lively had it right ... books take you places, and you never completely come back from that experience. I guess those are the benefits, the joys, the wonderful consequences of reading.
What do books do for you?