Monday, June 10, 2013

Books: The Healthiest Addiction

By Christina Freitas

You know the old phrase, getting lost in a good book? Chances are you’ve lived it once or twice in your lifetime. In fact, it’s probably the most cost-effective cruise you’ll ever take without packing a single suitcase. You come as you are and you leave armed with stunning ideas and images, revelations about the past, the future, or a remarkable sense of how much man can accomplish in a few hundred pages. Our world is flawed, imperfect and full of maddening, often unsolved riddles. Books provide another option, a tide that swells inwards, muddied with the debris of daily troubles, yet retreats clear from the tangled webs of fear and uncertainty.

Everyone has to start
somewhere, right?
In The Open Door: When Writers First Learned to Read, edited by Steven Gilbar, readers encounter narratives from storied authors such as W. B. Yeats and Charles Dickens, as they divulge their first forays into a life of reading and, ultimately, of writing that would impact generations to come. This collection includes autobiographical pieces from writers and public figures as they discuss the individuals who first introduced them to reading. Each author chronicles their growing love for books and explores how this artistic sphere, full of hope and unity among men, taught them to see the world in new, imaginative ways, and to share their experiences with others on the page.

Ever since I was little, I have loved reading. My mother always read to me as a child, determined to foster in me a love for this magnificent art. She had little trouble striking a match there. Back when summer was actually liberated from schoolwork and other labors, I would spend hours splayed out on the sofa, or my bed, or even the kitchen floor, just reading. Those adventures inspired me to create my own stories, coated with characters who have evolved from pure imitations of the heroes and heroines that I admired so much as a child into dynamic, complex characters who reflect my own fears and desires.

Tucked away in a small wooden chest are notebooks now several years old, scripted with the looping, bubbly script of a preteen writer. They’re stories you have heard before, because back then, I couldn’t shake the weighty influence of those tales that I had come to admire. I can admit it with pride. I was hooked. I knew that no matter where life’s footpaths led me, I would always, always, always write.

Dragons, plagues, and
fairies, with a dollop of
courage on the side.
Two novels in particular truly inspired me to write as a child. One was The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. This fantasy novel follows Princess Addie, a timid and unlikely heroine, as she embarks on a quest for the cure to a deadly sickness that has stricken her kingdom as well as her sister, Meryl. Even though I haven’t touched the book in years, I still remember the opening lines, a poem dedicated to the kingdom's mightiest hero, and its message of courage against all odds, even time itself, still impacts my work today.
"Stay gold, Ponyboy."
Famous last words.

Similarly, I've always taken inspiration from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Here, I was struck most by the unbreakable bonds of brotherhood between Ponyboy, his family and his friends. One of my first written works, if we can call them such, consists of a tale very similar to this one, where family is paramount and defies every challenge the world can lob its way. Indeed, my favorite series to this day, an urban fantasy line from Rob Thurman, centers around two brothers whose love for each other is immovable, rising and holding fast against dangers natural and otherwise.

Like the authors profiled in Steven Gilbar's collection, I found inspiration in the world of books. Reading gave me the push I needed to become a writer and a dreamer, to believe that nothing is ever impossible. To know that with a little luck and a lot of hope, maybe we can change this world for the better, one dream at a time.

What are some books that you’ve read throughout the years that have inspired you? Books that made you love reading or writing? What made these books and others that you’ve enjoyed so memorable? Or more generally, what do you love about reading - period? Share your comments with us here or join us @GodinePub on Twitter! If you're looking for some inspiration of your own, you can pick up a copy of The Open Door on our website.

1 comment:

  1. I used my ability to read as a means of success in school, but the first time I really got lost in a book happened in my freshman year of college. I read Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers. The experience was an epiphany, and I have been an avid science reader ever since.