Column: For the love of books

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By Sara Tucker, News Staff

I was five when I got my first library card. It was green and beige and I got to “sign” the back – clear evidence of my terrible kindergarten handwriting. My mom and I would take weekly trips there, a bag load of books hanging from her shoulder and an eager kid with a gap-toothed smile pulling on her arm to get inside.

I grew up in the pages of “Corduroy” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” “Junie B. Jones” and “Little Critter.” And when I tired of imagined classrooms and lost buttons, I found “Harry Potter,” “Nancy Drew” and “Charlie Bone.” Books were the one thing my mom would always splurge on when I was young. Who needed more clothes or toys when you could have books – a quasi-toy that I would play with for much longer than my Barbies.

I’ve outgrown “Clifford” and “The Hardy Boys,” but I’ll never outgrow books. I can walk around a bookstore or the library for ages, tilting my head with the shape of the spines or reading random pages of a Roosevelt biography, a trashy romance, a wilderness survival guide. Books are incredible. Like music, they can transport you to another world or make you realize things about your own. Some of my greatest role models were met on the pages of novels, and my ideas about love, romance, friendship and family were shaped in them as well.

As an English major, books have become my life. But when I study books, sometimes I forget to enjoy them. I think this happens to a lot of people in the midst of high school and college English. And as we age, the divide only widens.

Reading is an invaluable skill and, in my opinion, reading is important no matter what your major or profession. Investment banker, publisher, doctor or gardener, books have a way of teaching us about humanity. They are a projection of one person’s imagination, and they allow us a glimpse into an alternate world that has a funny way of infringing on our own. I wanted to join the circus after I read “Water for Elephants,” and I wanted to marry a rich man that I hated upon our first meeting after I read “Pride and Prejudice.” I tend to project myself onto the characters in the novels I read, and I often come out with a better understanding of those around me.

I’ve read 53 novels in the last year, and not a single one of them do I regret. Even if I hate a novel, I always learn something from it. Even if I spend an entire weekend in the library trying to get through two 500-page novels for class, I never walk out feeling as though the time was wasted. Reading a novel always leaves me feeling enriched, smarter, maybe even a better person.

Like going on a particularly satisfying run or helping out a friend in a tight spot, getting through a novel always leaves me with a sense of satisfaction, and maybe even triumph. Especially after getting through a classic, like “The Jungle” or “Dracula.” So treat yourself. Go to the bookstore and buy something you actually want to read, instead of something you have to read. If someone were to ask you what you did today, which answer would feel better: “I watched an entire season of ‘Mad Men’” or “I read a novel?”

If you want to get into a new book, but you’re not sure which one, consider these:

Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. If you’ve already read this, try “Into Thin Air” (by the same author).

Pet Sematary” by Stephen King.

Outbreak” by Robin Cook.

Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom.

Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe.


 –Sara Tucker can be reached at [email protected]

Photo courtesy Brenn Moyan, Creative Commons.