There are endless quotes about the power of books… Magic, a constant friend, mirror of the soul, air… an experience. My personal favorite, the one that continually floats up to the front of my mind since I first read it in college, is from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried: “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.”
Stories help us to empathize, to begin to understand things we haven’t experienced, and maybe never will. I am thankful when someone more poetic than myself commits those stories to print. Sometimes they offend, create controversy, make us uncomfortable; that's what matters, that's what books do—they open the door to conversation, bring light to a darkened reality. Be it Night, The Underground Railroad, Hillbilly Elegy or The Handmaid's Tale—it's the books that tell a story that is often beyond ourselves--and without which, we would remain in the dark.
I actually started thinking about this last night after learning about the passing of a friend I made while working at a Homeless Service Center years ago. Oddly, after hearing the news the preview for the new movie based on Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle popped up on my screen. The memoir is Walls' account of growing up in a very unconventional family, whose parents chose a homeless life. This book was the focus of a fundraising event we had at the center, and while hearing Walls' words were powerful, it was the conversations I had as a result—among the homeless, among those who weren't, and mostly between homeless and housed—that resonated most. As a result of traveling down memory road, I decided to make a list, incomplete (and absent those already mentioned above) but a start, of the books who's power has remained with me. The ones that have created spirits in my head and have forever remained alive.
So call it a start, or even an inspiration to start somewhere, but start. Read. Allow yourself to be challenged, and then talk about it with others:
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