Books are built to make you experience and feel adventures and emotions outside of your own life. Emotions we feel while reading can be powerful. They can be life-affirming, fearful, exciting, angering, heartbreaking, or just plain fun.
Good stories whisk you away, but have you ever gotten so invested that the character and events of the story start to feel very real? Moreover, have you been so stunned by the turn of events that you literally throw the book across the room?
I have. All good readers feel like chucking things at some point. We get invested. Low-impulse-control people like yours truly actually go the extra mile and hurtle a glue and paper book across the room.
I had just finished reading a book (six-ish years ago), and one of the main characters croaks at the end. As I turned the pages, I felt the build-up. I felt the impending sacrifice the way the wind prickles your skin before a storm. With barely ten pages left, I threw the book across the room (aiming for a pillow!), and I left it there. For two months, it sat there.
Dad meandered past, saw the book and shrugged. Twister glanced at it, bent down to pick it up, and I shouted, “DON’T TOUCH THAT BOOK! IT’S ON TIMEOUT!”
It took two months of me not wanting to finish the story, not wanting to see the fateful curtains close, before I finally worked up the nerve. It wasn’t unlike grieving a loss. I knew the character was going to meet his end. I knew it was a sacrifice worth making. I knew it fit in the story with all the masterful beauty of a final brushstroke to a canvas.
I rescued the book from its purgatory and sat down. I finally came to terms with the death of a character—a friend, really—and I was ready to see those last few moments. Even then… even after two months of mental preparation and the certainty of the end… even after rethinking the plot and the characters and the sacrifice… even after knowing it was all going to be OK because I could simply reread the books… even then… I cried.
Instead of throwing, I slid the book onto the shelf, snapped into place like a memory museum.
That’s what it’s all about. Feeling and empathy. Connecting with another line of thinking and feeling something.
Books are our conduits. To other places, other people, other times. They are powerful. Beautiful, even.
And sometimes they piss you off and get thrown into the corner for two months… but we always go back to them.
So how about you? Have you ever played a game of fisticuffs with a book? Has a book ever moved you to such emotion that you cried or fumed or fought?
What about your favorite book? What does it make you feel?