“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” Kafka wrote to his childhood friend just as he was setting out on a life of making and honing axes of words. I have always been struck by his metaphor — by both the exquisite truth of its tenor and the awful violence of its vehicle. A good book is indeed a profound transformation and, yes, there can be a violence to how it awakens us from the trance of near-life, but it is often a transformation of great subtlety and tenderness — an act of healing, a self-salvation, a self-creation. “Books and stories are medicine, plaster casts for broken lives and hearts, slings for weakened spirits,” Anne Lamott wrote in her lovely letter to children a century after Kafka. As a child, Jane Goodall read herself into her unexampled life. As a girl cusping on adulthood, Helen Fagin read herself alive through the Holocaust.
I always find reading a powerful experience, and way more so than watching a movie or TV program. A book is far richer and more vivid than a movie because our minds are more powerful than a video editing suite. I'm always a bit sad when I get to the end of a book. Books enrich human beings and getting into the habit of reading daily is never time lost.
“Books read us back to ourselves… The escape into another story reminds us that we too are another story. Not caught, not confined, not predestined.”