The Magic of Reading

Welcome to the new Edinburgh Book Review website! We hope you like the new design and layout, as well as this new Articles section. In this feature, our editors will take the time to share their thoughts on the world of books and discuss new and upcoming publications. We also accept guest articles from people who have something interesting to say about books, creative writing, getting published or anything related to the writing and reading process. Our first article is written by our editor Wander, about what books mean to him.

I think books are just great. Seeing as you’re here, chances are you feel the same way. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved a good story. Fairytales were an important and cherished part of my childhood; they made a lot more sense to my young mind than the evening news my parents habitually watched. A wizened old king, a brave knight, a fair princess, a fierce dragon, gnomes, witches – you can’t go wrong with any of that, now can you?

Once I started tracing individual letters across the page, carefully mouthing their sounds and choosing my first books from the local library, I was hooked to the magical world of reading. Like learning to walk or how to ride a bicycle, just being able to open a book, any book and going on an adventure on your own offered such an unrivalled freedom that was empowering like any other. The dream-state which great books can inspire would be so powerful that it would be difficult to plug back into the real world again – putting me into a delightful daze for weeks – until I had finished it.

Talking to other young readers at school, I discovered a division among the avid bookworms. On the one hand, there were the speed readers – like one particular quirky, chatty girl in my class, who just tore through novels, devouring every titbit of lore, gaining notoriety for having read the new Harry Potter from cover to cover in a single night. Then, there were the slow ones.

I belong to the latter category – and love it. Engrossed in a fantastic story for weeks on end, deliberating every chapter, thoughtfully weighing the meaning each line, the flow of the words and the rhythm they evoked, hours just seemed to stretch and expand in unpredictable ways. That was great; hypnotic even. The thing is, scenes from the novel I had reluctantly put down before a night’s sleep would graciously revisit my thoughts the next morning during math class, tugging at my concentration, but probably offering me a far better education in the progress. I could scarcely wait to race back home and finish my homework, so I could see how it would all unfold. Looking back, not a single hour I’ve spent reading is an hour I consider wasted.

Reading, for most of us, is an activity that can transport us like nothing else can. Like all forms of travel, it transforms us. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, each chapter takes us to places in the world that might be far removed from our immediate surroundings. It allows us to access thoughts and feelings from the recesses of our psyche, that we would likely keep hidden from others – or even from ourselves. For many of us, reading can be the best kind of catharsis, a form of private therapy, as we work through our problems, finding consolation when following the footsteps of our favourite characters. To us readers, the hero’s journey enhances our own narratives. As real life’s incompatible oppositions dissolve in the face of timeless mythological patterns, they allow us to find the means to resolve and cope with the haphazard logic our own life’s story.

Whether it’s a hearty belly-laugh or a good long sob, and be it on crisp and crawling winter’s afternoons or sun-soaked beaches far abroad, books accompany us through our lives, enriching our insular experiences and connecting us to this proverbial treasury that encompasses human culture. What’s more, books bring us closer together, offering a more arcane language to better communicate those feelings and notions for which we seldom find the time or space to express in our usual day-to-day shorthand.

So, what does reading do for you? If you feel like sharing your experiences, please tell us. What’s that one childhood memory of that one special read that set you on the path to every book that followed? What was that one time that a book saved your life, or helped you salvage a cherished relationship? Do you enjoy reading most from the comfort of your sofa, or would you rather go out to that invisible nook in your local café, or that peaceful park-bench that has your name written all over it? Are you the solitary one, keeping all the best books to yourselves, or is there nothing better than trading yarns of the pages with your book-minded friends? Feel free to share your love of books in the comment section below or even submit an article for this feature. Let us know what new books we need to review. Or better yet, come aboard and tell the people yourself. Happy reading!

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