What makes us fall in love with a book? Often, this question is as complex as what makes us fall in love with a person. We all have a type (I like fantasy and romance), but we have all fallen in love outside of that type in our lives (I have loved some sci-fi and crime thriller novels that I would never have thought I’d have enjoyed).
So what is it? Because we’ve all had that moment. That book that gets in your head, that you can’t stop thinking about. For a little while, the lnandscape of that book becomes the landscape of the inside of your mind. That’\s how powerful writing is; it’s the only way we ever get close to being inside one another’s heads. And the thing is, the book you imagine – the world you imagine – is like, perhaps, what the author imagined, but not exactly like it. It’s that magical meeting-point between your own imagination and the imagination of the writer.
I don’t know quite when the first time this happened for me was. I’ve been in love (in the literary sense) so many times now, that I don’t remember the first time, but I think I must have been seven or eight. I certainly remember that by the time I read Harry Potter (and I am youthful enough to have read them as they were coming out, but also old enough to remember a time long before the films) it was a familiar feeling, to have someone else’s imaginary world shape the inside of your own mind, just for a while.
And at that age I hated anyone talking about books, or trying to talk about what I was reading with me. It felt too private, too personal. And part of reading – part of the reason that reading is the sanctuary of the introvert child – that is so lovely is the private element. I found it so hard to share what in many ways felt so private to me.
Of course, I’m largely “over” that now – it’s hard not to be, when you’re writing. You’re inviting other people in, then. You’re inviting them to come into the landscape of your own imagination. It’s not really going to be that, because it’s going to be shaped by their own ideas, their own thoughts and backgrounds and everything they have read. But it’s a deeply personal process all the same.
And it’s a magical thing, and a wonderful thing. Reading and writing, they’re all part of the same desire. The desire to communciate and to touch the mind of another and to admit that – on some level – we are the same as someone else. They may feel what felt when we read or wrote the same thing. There’s nothing more special to that. Not to me. Falling in love with a book. That’s powerful enough to connect with writers thousands of years dead. Literature is precious; it lets us know we are human, and that is all we need to be.
Please feel free to add in the comments below any books you fell in love with – does anyone remember the first one?