The books that stick in my memory are those that have real people in real life situations, even if they’re fantasies or mysteries. They face problems, defeat them or are defeated by them, live, learn, change. I love immersing myself in their stories, and I laugh or cry with them. Years ago I rode the bus while reading A Tale of Two Cities, and tears streamed down my face when Sydney Carton faced the guillotine. I bonded instantly with a woman pouring over The Joy Luck Club while waiting for car repairs.
In other words, I’m a Nosy Nelly. This antiquated term means someone who’s so interested in other people’s business that she sticks her nose in everywhere. Since I don’t dare indulge myself by peeping in my neighbors’ windows, I restrict myself to books. Since my life has a finite limit and I’m not a time traveler, books let me make endless trips to fascinating eras and equally entrancing personalities. Since I’m not a millionaire, I don’t spend a penny on my voyages through books.
Visual artists enable their viewers to see things in a new way. They open their eyes. In the same manner, writers enable their readers to think about the world and life in new ways. They open their minds. So my cupidity* for knowing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people brings me rewards in addition to entertainment. How could I learn how a soldier in Viet Nam dealt with the armed conflict except through The Things They Carried? Catch a glimpse of a future I hope we can avoid in The Hunger Games? Get a sense of an immigrant’s situation in London in the course of White Teeth?
I’m neither limited to a single lifetime nor restricted in any other way. That’s why I read.
*Cupidity: greed, strong desire