“A book is a world full of words where you live for a while.” Patrick Ness, More Than This
I was talking to someone recently about my time at university and half-jokingly remarked that during my 3 years studying, I only lived part time in the 20th Century.
I discovered a love of medieval literature and stories even older than that from Beowulf to the Pearl poet. My favourite lectures, tutorials and studies were based on old works – Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, Milton.
These days I’m more contemporary in my reading but I still love that feeling of walking another landscape, sampling another culture or stepping into another experience that I get through reading both fact and fiction.
Last week’s charity challenge of walking 10,000 steps per day gave me some appreciation of the time and effort it takes women and girls in the developing world to fetch water for their families. But arguably books and stories take me even further.
I’ve been to Botswana with Alexander McCall Smith and Mma Ramotswe; eaten in the best places in San Francisco with Amy Tan and even been into space with Commander Chris Hadfield.
I’ve time travelled to Victorian London with Dickens and to Regency period Bath with Jane Austen. I’ve walked the streets of Ankh Morpork; survived a shipwreck on an alien planet where men can hear each others thoughts, and travelled beyond Wall into Faerie (and made it back again). Books take me places I could never go.
I will never know what it means to be a black woman transplanted from Nigeria to the USA; to have my hair chemically relaxed, or tightly braided in a salon. I’ll never experience racism in all its different shades and colours. But, thanks to the book I’m currently reading, ‘Americanah’ by Chimananda Ngozi Adiche, I know about these experiences. And through reading I’ve seen the world through another person’s eyes.
I am grateful to books for all the worlds they allow me to live in for a while.