Books: The Greatest Lovers

Books: The Greatest Lovers

I thought about doing this as a video blog. I was going to take footage from this afternoon where Charley and I hung out in a bookshop in London, unexpectedly having been granted the opportunity to meet up during the interminable months between November, when we spent a weekend together, and August, when we plan to do a similar thing. However, I was so excited to see my co-writer again that I completely forgot I had a camera with me and left it in my bag the entire time. So I did what any blogger would do — abandoned the video idea, and decided to write it up. With WORDS.

Shocking, right? Absolutely appalling. How dare I, a writer, decide to use WORDS to tell a story?

Anyway, I’m sure even those of you who don’t watch Doctor Who (and I hope very much that you are few and far between, else much of my blog will not make sense to you) will have heard by now a quote from the Tenth Doctor in the second series since 2005:

“Books! The greatest weapons in the world!”

And, you know, the Doctor has a point. Books are a way of arming yourself against the world with knowledge and experience that you can’t get anywhere else. When you’re in a weak position, you can turn to books for advice, and they can help you.

But I don’t think that’s really what books are like or for. I think books aren’t weapons: they’re lovers. (And I’m not talking about the really nice edition of Lord of the Rings that you sensually finger every time you’re in a bookshop because of the way it looks at you from the shelves. Seriously. Don’t deny it. I’m not judging you. We’ve all been there. Those maps are sexy.)

People—especially children—turn to books when they’re hurting. Books are a way to make sense of a new place or experience, from moving house or school to falling in love for the first time. You turn to books to find characters who are going through the same thing. And you know what those characters do? You know what those books do?

They take your hand and they lead you through it.

Books are a support. In many cases, they’re a lifeline. Many months ago now there was a Twitter movement called #YAsaves, where people told their stories of what YA fiction meant to them, and how it had helped them. There was also a fantastic article on the subject about YA fiction and what it can mean to people whose lives are difficult and traumatic, which you can find here.

I didn’t have a difficult or traumatic childhood. While there are things about being a teenager that haven’t been a walk in the park (unless it’s the kind of walk where you fall in the pond and then get hit by somebody’s bike but aren’t seriously injured, in which case I’d say the metaphor was apt), I would definitely not say that I was one of the people described in this article, for whom books hold nothing new, and therefore turn to them to find people like themselves.

Nevertheless, in difficult times, books have been a comfort. When school gets boring, books are the friends that take you on wild adventures as soon as the bell rings. When you’re angry at your parents / society / the world, books lead you up onto the barricades to start the revolution—but guard you from the bullets. Books are the friend that movies made you believe you’d have but who never materialised through all your time at school, despite trying. Books are there to love you when you’re not sure if anybody else does.

Yes, books can be weapons. And books, if written in the right way and put in the hands of the right people, can turn humans into weapons too.

But books can teach you how to love. Books can teach you how to be loved. Books can love you.

Because when you’re different, it’s books about kids that are different which tell you it’s okay to be who you’re are, to tell you that you can be accepted. When you’re grieving, it’s books that show you other people going through loss so that you know how to overcome the emotions. When you’re seemingly lost in darkness, books are quite often the guiding light.

Books are lovers. Not weapons.

That’s why I write them. Because somewhere out there is a reader who needs to be loved.

But more to the point, that’s why I read them. Because that’s what we all need, really. Every little monster just wants to be loved. And aren’t we all monsters of a sort, in our own world? Don’t we all scare ourselves sometimes? (Please tell me that’s not me…)

So let me amend that quote.

“Books! The greatest lovers in the world!”

What do you think? Weapons or lovers? And do you stroke nice editions of books when you find them?

16 thoughts on “Books: The Greatest Lovers

  1. Don’t hate me… but my Mom has those editions of Lord of the Rings AND the Hobbit – the nie leather bound ones that came out… um probably in the 70s? I really dont’ know… Still, she won’t let me have them and I fear they might pass me and go to one of my kids (if they ever start respecting books).

    And now back to topic!

    Your metaphorical walk in the park is a bit like my childhood – those awekward years of being a pre-teen. Only really tiw as all metaphoircal stuff, because that’s what you get when you cross an Obsessive Compulsive personality with a Philosphy and lingquisitcs professor… (But boy did he read a good Golum!)

    Anyway I used books the exact way you described them – more pointedly – Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Charely’s read a lot of them now *devious grin* If it wasn’t for Menolly and Pernnese Dragons and Firelizards (and my good imaginary friend whose graduated to being my Pheonix sereis hero, Hason *giggles*). I don’t think I would have survived through mentioned above guy’s mental shinanigans as intact as I have.

    So to me, I say books are Lovers, Lovers who give you the tools to fight your way through daily life’s trials and tribulations thus making books – Loving weapons. *grins*

    1. Ah, the ones we were looking at today aren’t leather bound, but they’re very nice with super high quality paper and a pretty fold-out map and I just…ah. I want them. However, I already have the trilogy, so…

  2. Ah, Doctor Who. How are you liking the new season?

    Books are wonderful. I used to read just because there was nothing better to do, but now I read because I actually like it. One bookshelf can contain hundreds of words and thousands of worlds.

    1. I’ve been enjoying this half-series more than some recent ones, though last Saturday’s episode was my least favourite so far which was a huge disappointment (because I hoped it would be awesome as Neil Gaiman wrote it). From what I’ve read, however, quite a few scenes were cut that would have improved it. Matt Smith’s acting was quite spectacular though, so it definitely had redeeming features. I think it’s been a good series. Not perfect, but one doesn’t expect TV to be perfect :-)

      1. I loved the bit when Matt acted as both the Doctor and the Cyberplanner. It was brilliant. So far, my favorite episode is ‘The Crimson Horror’. Are you dreading or looking forward to the finale?

  3. Could not agree more with you here. That said, I do think books can serve a more punchy purpose too – look at the messages the books give about society: The Hunger Games, 1984, Animal Farm.

    I think it’s worth having a book that points out the need for change, too. It’s not something everyone wants to, or can, do, but it’s good to recognise that books can have that purpose too. Because they DO have so many purposes. And that’s the wonder of them, too. They are lovers, but they are also fighters and thinkers and dreamers, and they help us be those things too.

    1. True. I would not say that A Clockwork Orange is a lover.
      I now have an urge to start singing Frank Turner: “let’s be heroes, let’s be martyrs, let’s be radical thinkers…”

  4. What you said about stroking the fine additions of LotR was spot on. Those maps really are sexy.

    And I think books are lovers more than they are weapons, although they’re certainly good for both.

    1. There’s this one anniversary edition that’s in Waterstones whenever I’m there and the paper is wonderful but it has a FOLD OUT MAP and for me, this is definitely the clincher. I just sit there and hold it because I know I will never be able to afford to own it….

  5. My brother convinced me to watch an episode of Doctor Who this past weekend and Ten said something about the smell of books, methinks… It was an episode about a girl with a library in her head; he* said he thought I’d like that. :)

    Of course I stroke books! And sniff their pages. I don’t like really new books because they haven’t had enough time to smell like anything and old old old books don’t smell anything but musty. Ew.

    I must have had a lot of book-boyfriends… girlfriends… thingfriends… hmmm, I’m trying to decide if All Men of Genius is a boy or a girl.**

    *My brother, not The Doctor.

    **What? Doesn’t everyone try to figure out what gender an inanimate object is? I can’t even explain it. It’s not just who the MC is or what the cover looks like. It’s like the writing style. Or something. The Hobbit is a little boy. A Game of Thrones is a sullen teenage boy, rather like Jon Snow actually. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a girl, for some reason.

    1. Really? For me, The Hobbit is a precocious seven-year-old girl, but I guess that’s the me I associate with it and my memories of reading it for the first time, rather than anything to do with the book itself :) I’ve never tried to think of books as people, though. I think they don’t need to be humanised to be friends, perhaps because I don’t get on very well with people generally.
      I think it would also be influenced by the cover of whichever edition I read, too… and how well I know the author. For example, a book by Maggie Stiefvater (whose blog I read, videos I watch, and whom I’ve met twice) is going to seem a lot more like her in my mind than a book by, I don’t know, Mary Arrigan, about whom I know nothing whatsoever. (Just picked a random book off my shelf for that comparison.)

    2. I guess I think hobbits = little people = kids = little boy (because Bilbo’s a guy? I suppose). There are some wonderful people out there (including some *cough* bloggers *cough*) but I’d rather make friends with a book. They’re less fickle. Better looking, too.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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