A Thousand Lives (or Why Reading is Awesome)

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin (A Dance with Dragons)

I’m a reader.

I’ve never been a particularly adventurous woman. But I’ve gone on a thousand lifetimes’ worth of adventures within the pages of my favorite books. I’ve traveled across dangerous landscapes, fought terrifying foes, cried tears of mourning over things lost and tears of joy over things gained, and learned enough to fill a book of my own about myself in the process.

I’ve danced with Angelina Ballerina, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, and reached for the green light with Jay Gatsby. I’ve taken the road less traveled with Robert Frost, I’ve seen the Eden in America with Walt Whitman, and I’ve broken all the rules with e.e. cummings.

Atticus Finch taught me about human decency, and Daisy Buchanan taught me about human carelessness. The March sisters taught me about the bonds of family, and Ron Weasley taught me about the importance of a best friend. Romeo and Juliet taught me that love can sometimes burn too hot too fast, and Darcy and Elizabeth taught me that love can sometimes be a slow-burning flame that eventually warms your soul. Huck Finn taught me to stand up for what I believe is right, and Jane Eyre taught me to stand up for myself.

I’ve traveled to the Island of the Blue Dolphins, the Shire, and Hogwarts. I’ve grown up on Mango Street, in District 12, and along a post-apocalyptic road with a nameless father and son. I’ve journeyed through Westeros, lived at Thornfield Hall, and even spent a little time in Forks, Washington.

I’ve been to heaven and back with Susie Salmon. I’ve been inspired by Dr. Seuss. I’ve been scared by Stephen King. I’ve been on a lonely raft with a boy named Pi. I’ve been up way past my bedtime with Harry Potter. I’ve been onstage with the words of William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller.

I’ve fallen in love with Jaime Lannister and Peeta Mellark and a hundred others. I’ve admired Jo March and Janie Crawford and a thousand more. I’ve had nightmares about Professor Umbridge, and I’ve dreamt of becoming as strong as Professor McGonagall. I’ve played and learned and grown with Molly, Samantha, and so many other American Girls.

Hermione Granger showed me that it’s okay to smarter than the boys. Katniss Everdeen showed me that we all have power, strength, and fire inside us. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist showed me that all people deserve the right to love who they love.

I’ve laughed over the misadventures of Bridget Jones. I’ve cried over the love story of Hazel Grace and Augustus. I’ve gone mad with Ophelia, too.

I learned about stories and authors from Tim O’Brien and Ian McEwan. I learned about the strength of the human spirit from a young girl named Anne Frank.

When I read, I’m brave and beautiful and bold; I’m free and fearless and formidable. When I read, I get to be things I don’t always feel I am in reality, but sometimes—on very rare and wonderful occasions—I take a little bit of those characters, those lives, and those adventures with me after I close the book. When I read, I learn, I laugh, I cry, and I grow. When I read, I live a new and different life with each crack of a book’s spine, with each turn of the page.

I’m a reader. My story is intertwined with a thousand other stories. I’ve lived a thousand lives already, and I’m excited to live a thousand more. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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17 thoughts on “A Thousand Lives (or Why Reading is Awesome)

  1. I love your stuff so much. I am so glad I found this site.

    And I am so glad I read this post.

    This is beautiful in a way I think only other readers can understand. You got it and put the adventure, the love, the loss, and the lessons in a few paragraphs. This is exactly how I feel.

    Thank you.

  2. Yeah, what she said. 😉

    Seriously though, I too am among those who loves that I found this blog and your posts a breath of fresh air. Thoughtfully revealing and wonderful. As a reader who stayed in my room all day to read Rosemary’s Baby and has thrown more than one Stephen King novel into the closet in fear. Who has screamed out loud “I know who the killer is” when only on page 60 and wept over the same passages underlined and dogtagged in my favorite novels. I think this piece is exquisite. It made me think of how I felt about books in my 20s, why I loved Dead Poets Society and how I hope to see these emotions in my 7 year old as she grows.

    Stephen Sondheim wrote in a song one “I do not read to think. I do not read to learn. I do not read to search for truth I know the truth, the truth is hardly what I need. I read to dream. I read to live.” I think there is a truth in those lyrics and the unique joy you find when enveloping yourself into a book. It is unlike any other experience because the imagery, words, sounds, inflections are all of your own creation.

    Great post.

    • Just so you know, your comment just made me teary-eyed in the best possible way. Thank you so much for the kind words and the beautiful thoughts. It’s always a wonderful feeling to know that someone else loves literature as much as I do. I loved everything you said about crying over the same underlined passages because I do exactly the same thing. And it’s always nice to hear that someone else loves Dead Poets Society because it’s one of my favorite films.

      That Sondheim lyric is absolutely gorgeous and perfectly true. Thank you so much for sharing that with me.

  3. This is a beautifully written post. I haven’t been reading as much in the last few weeks but reading during my lunch break today reminded me just how good it feels to get lost in a book.

    • Thanks, Heather! I’m so excited that you’re back to reading the ASOIAF series because that means we have more thing to talk about together! 😀

      • Yep! I worked in libraries on and off during during, and now I get to play in the stacks 20 hrs a week and hang out with awesome library geeks. I’m a page – reshelving, checking in, finding missing books, pulling holds and doing all the stuff no one else wants to do – it’s the best – you get to handle all the books and no one minds if you stop to flick through a book while you’re working. And we have a relaxed, fun work environment – my icon/picture is what I wore to work last Halloween – pink wig and butterfly wings. 🙂

  4. I was reading your post while enjoying my morning coffee, and although I rarely comment on blogs, I felt the need to share about your post on reading. So many of the things you shared are exactly how I feel when I read! I love everything that you shared, and I like the fact that there is someone else out there who also loses themselves in a story. Most of the characters that you mentioned are like old friends, and I couldn’t agree more about reading and re-reading favorites!
    I am an English teacher and plan on sharing this with my colleagues!
    You are an inspiration and I love your posts! I also enjoy your TV recaps, especially about my favorite show, Castle.

    • Thank you so much for this wonderful comment—you just made my day! I love that this post is bringing out other readers because we’re such a special (and wonderful) breed of people. It always makes me happy to find more people who get lost in books like I have for so many years. And it makes me especially happy that an English teacher found this post! My love for reading and writing was inspired by a group of fantastic and passionate English teachers and professors, so I really admire the work that English teachers do to share their passion with their students.

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