My mom got me my first library card on my second birthday.
That was the earliest the library would let you have your own card. Right away, I used it extensively. In every childhood bedroom I remember, there was a spot on my dresser for library books – a pile for those to be read and a pile for those to return.
Books were one of the first places I encountered magic. There were the stories themselves, like The Witch’s Buttons by Ruth Chew, The Cuckoo Clock by Mrs. Molesworth* and the tales of Narnia too. Less explicitly magical but magical nonetheless were books like The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre.
I learned that reading itself is magical. When I opened a book, I stepped into a different life and found new places where characters became companions. I had many amazing adventures while never leaving the living room floor. (For some reason curling up on that white shag carpet was my favourite place to get lost in a book.)
As I grew, I discovered that books offer a transformational magic. We can be changed by what we read. Sometimes, this can be difficult. In high school, it took me a year to recover from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In the best scenarios, books change us by giving us a new understanding of ourselves, the world and one another, particularly people, places and times that were hitherto unknown to us.
Now I find the books that bring me the most meaningful pleasure are the ones that remind me of the beauty and magic in everyday life, like the memoirs of May Sarton or The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl, which I read at this week’s Reading Hour.
All of this magic is why I included a monthly Reading Hour in The Studio: Your Year of Creative Magic. In this fast-paced world of doom-scrolling and dopamine hits, we can settle in for a time and remember the magic of reading. Perhaps, we will be lucky and that magic will spill into the world and our lives in all sorts of wonderful and unexpected ways.
This is an excerpt from Letters from My Studio. You can subscribe here.