Long before I mastered the skill of reading, I was immensely drawn to my parent’s bookshelf. It held a huge, carefully stored collection of books in their spacious attic room. The bookshelves had double rows to accommodate them all. Every now and then, I would go upstairs and select a book, carefully inspecting its cover, immersing myself in the illustrations, inhaling the scent of the pages, and then letting my imagination spin tales woven around its contents.
In the years that followed, books never let go of me. To me, literature is about immersing oneself in stories that enable us to better understand other people, ourselves, or the world around us. Books have often challenged me to think deeper and reflect. Much of what I know now has emerged from the works of the many writers who came before me. Great authors have articulated what I may have thought before but could never find the right words for.
As an avid reader, I have always been fascinated by how literature has the ability to transport us to different times, places, and perspectives. It allows us to inhabit the minds of the characters and witness their triumphs, struggles, and transformations. It broadens our horizons, provides solace, or helps us connect with the complexity of human emotions. It’s magical how a writer can ignite the imagination and create entire worlds in the reader’s mind with mere words — worlds that may never physically exist.
There are countless books that have left a lasting impression on me, offering me different ways to see the world. The power of literature lies in its ability to temporarily place the reader in someone else’s shoes. Although the fate of the main characters doesn’t necessarily have to mirror my own, there are always universal passages that remind us that as humanity, we have more in common than we sometimes realize. Through storytelling, we can understand ourselves better and find our commonality with others. We can share passions, hardships, embarrassments, joys, griefs, and our overall human experience. Using stories we can connect and feel less alone in the world.
Literature is a valuable asset for the current generation of readers, but certainly also for the generations to come. Through the power of storytelling, we can gain profound insight into the past and the diverse experiences of people. Take, for example, the essayist James Baldwin, whose works have provided us with an enlightening glimpse into the America of the 1950s, vividly articulating the lived experiences of people of color. These works uniquely capture a specific moment in time, and through these writings, we can travel back and understand where we come from. They give voice to stories that might otherwise be lost.