By Shaunda Kennedy Wenger
P.O.V. Contributing Writer
A portion of this post was originally broadcast on Utah Public Radio in 2003. I have updated it with new opinions for today’s guest.
I’m a glutton for books — both new and borrowed. Regardless of pending appointments or deadlines, if I happen to come across a shelf of literature, I can’t resist the urge to pause and browse. Sometimes, I even go out of my way to visit them — just to look at new titles or feel the pages flip through my hands. And I’m not alone. I always find company among the shelves at the bookstore. And if I happen to be holding a book in my hands in public, more often than not someone will pause to ask me what I’m reading.
So I ask, what keeps us coming back to books? Turning page after page? Perhaps it’s because reading a book is like opening ourselves up to an emotional caress, regardless of whether the book is humor, suspense or chick-lit-light. In books, we can step into another world where another person’s problems are solved within the confines of a safe environment, an environment contained on bound sheets of pressed paper, dressed with ink (or the soft glow of an e-reader). An environment where the conflicts faced by a character we’ve grown to like and understand are eventually sorted out but on our own schedule.
Perhaps what is most appealing about reading is that we benefit from viewing the story and its conflict with an empowering perspective. We have a bilateral view of two worlds — that of the character and that of our own. Coupling our own experience with that in fiction gives us an advantage in focusing on a character’s path to resolution. This dual perspective also broadens our ability to empathize — with the character, with others and ultimately with ourselves, particularly when we carry the story within us. In essence, perhaps we become more human through fiction.
My last post focused on bullying, and methods that seem to work in correcting that behavior at the school where I teach. I’d like to close today’s post by sharing a book I recently read that touches on this subject: BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver. Although this book took a couple chapters before I really started to care about the character (as was the author’s intent), once I got into it I couldn’t put it down. BEFORE I FALL is one of those books that begs for discussion. It gets the reader into the emotions of both the bullies and the victims. However, given the topics that are touched on in the story such as drinking, partying, sex and bullying, this read is better suited for older readers with parental guidance. However, the author handles the story so well it does deserve the time spent with it and further reflection and discussion with others.
If you’ve found books you’ve recently fallen in love with, please share them here.
Thank goodness for books, and the time we make for them.