Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it’s a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself. There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.
—Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch
As I mentioned recently, I loved Mead’s thoughtful memoir about the effect Middlemarch has had on her life, but this passage struck me as particularly eloquent and true.
There are a few books that have definitely grown with me. They include childhood favorites such as Little Women, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Betsy-Tacy series and the Little House on the Prairie series, and books I discovered in high school or college, such as the Harry Potter series, Madeleine L’Engle’s memoirs (especially A Circle of Quiet and Walking on Water), Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night, and my beloved Advent book, Watch for the Light.
I’ve also discovered books in the last decade or so – Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper, many wonderful novels, Mary Oliver’s poetry – that I hope will grow with me through the rest of my life. I have found myself in their pages; they have held me and comforted me, taught me and challenged me to grow.
Reading – ever since I was a little bespectacled girl, sitting in the corner at school or curled up on my bed with my nose in a book – has been, and remains, a crucial dimension of my own life.
What books have grown with you?