Why Are Books So Powerful?

Shelves of Books(For this post, I’m talking about fiction books.)

Books are simple. Words on paper, arranged into an order we understand.

Why, then, are they so amazingly powerful? What about them captures our attention, making us spend hours within their pages?

Consider this quote by Stephen King:

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Books provide an entire world of possibilities, places, and people we can take anywhere, and that can take us anywhere in return.

That’s where the true magic lies.

Books take us on adventures

We have a natural sense of adventure ingrained in us. We want to explore. To discover new places, have new experiences, and create new memories.

More often than not, we’re stuck at home, pressing through daily life. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had the time—and courage—to explore places we’ve never been? Get outside the normal routine and experiences, and challenge our narrow view of the world?

Like astronauts venturing into space, or explorers from previous centuries blazing paths into uncharted lands.

Let’s face it. There’s not enough time—or money, unless you’re related to Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen—to visit all the places we want. There’s always somewhere new to go, some place that beckons us with its allure.

Thanks to books, adventures are no further than the living room couch. They’re the gateways that take us beyond our limited time and scope, and open up entire worlds in our laps.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” — A.C. Grayling

That’s some deep stuff. Grayling might have been talking about non-fiction books, but I think this applies to fiction just as well.

In a real sense, fiction books let us fly further afield, visiting places that exist only in our imaginations, but which are both familiar and exotic.

Books give us freedom

We want freedom. It’s part of being human. With books, we’re not restricted to a certain time or place. We can literally go to new worlds and meet new people. We become like Doctor Who, traveling through space and time to countless worlds and eras.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” — Frederick Douglass

Books give us freedom to:

  • Imagine
  • Dream
  • Go places we couldn’t otherwise
  • Experience life in new ways

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s stinking awesome.

Books change us

Some fiction books are only about the thrill. Packed with action and tension, they lack much substance. Like a wave pool at Water World—turbulent but not very deep.

Other books entertain us while challenging us to think and stretch our brains. They’re like wells, probing deep and forcing us to face life’s hard questions.

Reading a great story changes you in ways you might never have thought possible. The best books stick with us long after we’ve finished them, branded forever into our memories, haunting us with their message.

Few things have such power.

I’ll leave you with this quote from George R. R. Martin:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; the man who never reads lives only one.” – A Dance with Dragons

What sort of influence have books had on your life? What are some fiction books that have challenged, inspired, or impacted you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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