Humanity in Print

Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.
~Barbara Tuchman

“Humanity in print”—what a terrific way to describe books. So often it seems when I’m reading that I can actually feel what the characters feel. Their pain is my pain; their yearnings are my yearnings; their joy is my joy. To me, a truly gifted author is one who can take just a small piece of the human experience and really bring it to life, like Stephen King does with childhood in It. Or how Jane Austen does with courtship in…basically all her novels. (Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion particularly come to mind.) Jane Austen’s renderings of courtship are particularly poignant nowadays, when “courting” someone can often just come down to a text message; there is no intricate dance of courtship involving chaperones or inheritances or even any sense at all of propriety in some cases (though, of course, not all).

I also love the phrase “bankers of the treasures of the mind.” Where else, except maybe in art (but I don’t really “get” art, personally) can you find such talent all wrapped up into one neat little bundle? Where else can you really experience that genius as a lay-person? It’s easy to appreciate the mastery that goes into the construction of a building or a car or a computer, but difficult to, say, look at the schematic and truly experience the architect’s intentions, their dreams, their passions. With a book…you can do that. In most cases, you can read every single word on the page, and know that every single word came directly from that author’s brain. So perhaps instead of “bankers,” who keep treasures locked up tight, I would maybe substitute the word “museums.” They, also, keep their treasures locked up tight—but they are on display for the public to see. Books are like that.

And this is why Jillian’s post from a few days ago really struck a chord with me. Books are not just stories. They are experiences. And when you read a book, you are sharing an experience that hundreds or thousands or perhaps millions of other people have had before you. That’s why I love lending books to people, and why I’m so pushy a lot of the time about getting my boyfriend to read the books that I read. While I was reading Atlas Shrugged I was on the verge of buying another copy for him, just so we could discuss it together.

Finally, books have always been my companions, my teachers, my magicians. What a combination, huh? I always have a book with me, and I’m always learning something new every time I read. And what better magic is there to be instantly transported to another world? I love being able to jump into a book and forget all my worries for a while. So much of my time is taken up by worrying how I’m going to pay my student loans this month, or when I’ll be able to go get my car fixed, or how six volunteers all want a piece of me during the same half hour of the day. Even if books can’t solve those problems, they can distract me temporarily, and sometimes distraction is all I need to come back and face the problem with a fresh mind.

So, thank you, books, for always being there for me. For being museums of genius with free (or almost free) admission; for being windows into other times and others’ experiences; for being companions, and teachers, and, yes, magicians. I don’t know how I would live without you.

(Thanks again to Trish at Desktop Retreat for posting such a thought-provoking quote!)

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8 thoughts on “Humanity in Print

  1. It’s an amazing quote, isn’t it? And you’ve certainly given it, and books in general, such a wonderful tribute here in your post. I so agree with your take on books as being a shared experience, not only between author and reader, but between readers as well. It’s the closest we can possibly get to actually being inside someone else’s mind. So cool!

    • Thank you! The experience really is amazing. This is why I can’t wait to read Stephen King’s On Writing to really know what goes on when he writes! Very meta, haha.

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