To All the Books I’ve Read Before — Thank you!

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Before I begin, let me tell you, this is about to get super misty-eyed, so I suggest you grab a tissue or two and sit tight for this tribute!

I’m sure we’re all well aware of the usual benefits of reading, it helps you learn new words, improves your writing skills, and overall enhances your reading speed, etc. Since kindergarten, we’ve been told these things, most of the time by our parents and other times by our teachers. Either way, the point is, they’re embedded deep inside our brains and need not be repeated. For this reason, we are going to talk about the reasons less talked about! And perhaps, ones that are more insightful as well.

I bought my first book when I was 10 years of age, it was a gift from my parents for studying diligently and acing my finals (except mathematics…obviously). I remember pretending to be asleep in the back seat of our car after a short trip to my grandparents while my parents discussed what gift would prove to be an excellent incentive and encourage me to work just as hard in the future. Although, I was secretly hoping it would be a McDonald’s kid’s meal, I wasn’t disappointed when my father parked up in front of a thrift bookstore. And so, I ended up buying ‘Dog Days and ‘Rodrick Rules’ from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series (by Jeff Kinney), which was probably the best purchase I could’ve made at that naïve age.

It took me about four weeks to finish both the books and I was left wondering what in the world was I supposed to do next? Did my life have any purpose now that I had read two Jeff Kinney books? Although, the feeling of childish void that I had developed eventually sunk to the bottom and disappeared, there was something else too which refused to leave no matter what…

I kept thinking about the characters from the book and how my life resembled theirs in SO many ways. I would often find myself thinking, what would Greg do in such a situation before carrying out any task. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the thought had taken the place of a moral compass in my life. If Greg can do it, I sure can as well and ironically, there was very little Greg couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Needless to say, soon after I found myself obsessing over the book series, buying one book after the other. Now upon some introspection, I come to realize why that was the case, aside from obvious reasons like the humorous tone of the writer and applaudable progression of the storyline.

It was because I found parts of myself within the book, between all the spaces and words. I would look at the book pages and find excerpts of my childish personality, in the ways that Greg would mess with his siblings, how Rodrick lovingly bullied his little brother until it was time to stand up for him and so much more. My mundane life had started to seem extraordinary.

It helped me explore the inside of my consciousness in a way nothing ever could.

And as if carrying on a legacy, (almost) every book I read afterward has had the same effect on me. I got to live countless lives and be a part of circumstances I never thought I would experience, all with the help of inked pages bound together. I owe books everything for nudging the dark corners of my mind, for helping me untie knots that I never knew I had within myself.

One of the biggest and most precious lessons reading taught me is that of kindness. Not every villain deserves the electric chair, and sometimes hero’s need saving too. There is so much more than simply what a brief moment reveals. At times, we’re just starved of love and that can make us do treacherous things but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean we’re terrible people. More so, I understood what it truly meant to put myself in someone else’s shoes, to try and uncover their part of the story.

Reading books like the Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi and a Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman is the reason why I wish to scarp past the façades we put up out in the real world to hide the beauty, pain, and passion within. No words in any language would be enough to say, Thank you to these books, their characters, and the respective writers, for giving me such insight.

And if all of that wasn’t already enough, books have helped me build many unbreakable relationships. Relationships that will never expect too much of me, always stick around, give me a shoulder to lean on, never require me to text them back immediately, and as a bonus, be exceptionally prepossessing as well. I mean, what more could one possibly ask for?

I’ve cried with these characters and spent hours stupidly smiling at walls because the main character finally got the girl. Ah, here’s to all the ships that sailed! I wish I could put to words, the place every life I’ve ever lived through books has had in my heart.

I will never forget the feeling of reading through the death of one of my favorite side characters (Newt from the Maze Runner Series) and inwardly crying. I felt as though I’d been robbed of happiness, and I would never be able to get it back. Having to attend a real-life wedding right after eternally letting go of Newt angered me down to the bone.

Plus, don’t even get me started on being a part of a book fandom!

To wrap it all up, reading allowed me to live a secret life, far from all the struggles and agonies of this life. All I had to do was flip open a book, and reality shuts itself out. I could be a spy, a hitman, the leader of a secret society at the world’s oldest university, or a survivor, and the world would never know. Every book I ever read has made me the person I am today, and I wouldn’t give them up for the world (and there’s very little I am unready to let go of!).

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know” — Alberto Manguel.

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Asma Irfan

Asma Irfan

I’m in the middle of writing my story.