We swim in words all day long - stock quotes, headlines that scream, to-do lists, insurance forms, the occasional fashion magazine or dine-store romance. Yet for all their power to occupy or distract us, these types of writing will never compare to a good book.
A really god book doesn't just entertain; it leaves you fundamentally different. It's both a mirror and a magnifying glass - a woven compilation of seemingly small details that has the power to show you your truest self. When you read a good book, you see that everyone's problems are the same, but they're just a jumping-off point - that there are as many ways to live as there are grains of salt in the sea.
How do you know when you've found a good book? Time melts as you read it. Unsuspecting, you rack the spine and find yourself whisked to a place that sings to every cell in your body. Soon you're befriending characters that become soul mates, following a story that seems truer than reality.
Indeed, in the middle of a good book, you become so wrapped up in the story that you forget about the language, the way an exquisite painting renders color transparent. No one word, or hue, stands out as the most beautiful - they are all elemental, irreplaceable, in one complete, perfectly balanced whole.
Then, as you near the end of the book, you start metering out the pages in small doses because you don't want to leave the special world you've entered.
Most of all, a good book inspires you. As the words flow in and out of you, they change your attitude and open you up to new experiences. Read long enough, and a good book can make you want to be a better person, live a better life, talk to strangers, jet off to Paris, pick up a pen to write your own stories.
Next time a good book finds you, take a moment to give thanks for how one object, no bigger than the span of two palms, can contain so much of the world, teach you so much of what it means to be human, and make you feel so alive.
By Mariska Van Aalst