I don’t have a favorite book. I haven’t been apart of the cliche where I read a text that redirects my entire view on the world. I have tried to find one, trust me I’ve tried, but no novel or poem seems to do the job. The day just hasn’t come yet when someone asks me what my favorite book is and I am able to answer the question. There are tons of different titles and authors flying through my mind but none of them seemed good enough to pin as my “favorite.” I’ll stand in my room in front of my huge bookshelf and look at all of the books sitting there under my critical eye. I loved every single one of those novels, so why couldn’t I just make one of them my favorite? I think that’s the moment where it kind of hit me, literature hasn’t influenced me in a way that changes my world. Instead, literature has given me a million new worlds to live in. I couldn’t pick a favorite book because that would be like picking a favorite life for myself, and I owe it to the authors not to play favorites.
A good author has the potential to make the reader feel like they are actually part of the book, make them feel the emotions of the characters and to feel the tragedy, horror, fear, sadness, and most importantly love that gets shared through the story. But like most things in life, reading is a two-way street. In this case, between the author and the reader. The author can do an amazing job at writing the book, but it takes a good reader to actually allow themselves to get into the story. When a person nonchalantly tells me that they don’t like to read, it makes me laugh because they say it as if it’s just a fact that they can’t change. When in reality, the only barrier between hating and loving reading, is themselves. A person has to open their mind and allow the emotions portrayed through the words in the book to actually touch them past a surface level.
I am blessed to not have that issue. I let books take me over: mind, heart, and soul. I let myself get invested in what I’m reading. I walk through the story right along with the characters and their problems become my problems. Their sadness makes me sad, and their happiness brings me happiness. I fell in love with Park just like Eleanor in Eleanor and Park, and I solved the mystery that was Margo right along with Q in Paper Towns. For every book I read, I open myself up to an alternate world that I can live in for the time being. I can escape my own reality by joining the character’s reality. When I felt lost in the background noise of life I was able to open up the collection of poetry Bending the Universe, by Justin Wetch and read as he uses his words to express what I can’t seem to say out loud. He takes the universe and compares it to a cavern so big that it doesn’t return an echo. It was perfect because in that moment, I felt like that echo was my own voice. I would share thoughts and emotions with people only for them to be overlooked or ignored. It was as if my voice was non-existent. In this huge world, I was nothing but a little echo bouncing off the walls, waiting for another person to hear me… to help me. The problem was that the other person never came. I knew then I had to learn to be my own voice. I had to return my own echo. If I were to go to the world of Little Women, I would have to be Jo – strong, independent, and creative. It was with Jo in mind that I went about life from there on out.
Looking back on the ways literature has influenced my life, I think that it played a huge role in building who I am right now. Each character I’ve met along the journey of reading has left me with traits that I hold onto and mold into myself. I crave a sense of adventure that I can only thank books for. Books that take me all over the world without a passport or a plane ticket. Passionate and unlikely love stories have made me a hopeless romantic (although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing yet). Novels full of finding who you’re meant to be and being in the right or wrong place (at the right or wrong time), have led me to believe in a funny thing called fate. I credit literature as a big part of my upbringing because thanks to books, I didn’t just grow up in the little town of Olmsted Falls, Ohio… I got to grow up in a million different towns, in a million different countries, with a million different friends, in a million different worlds.