In this time of quarantine, it is important to engage in activities that bring you comfort. And if you’re reading this article, chances are, you share a love of books. Hence, this article aims to encourage you to befriend the books hidden around your house. From dusty old bookshelves and cupboards, books that were read long ago, books that were bought but forgotten, books belonging to other family members, books that made you cry, laugh and grow.
Firstly, I would recommend you reread your favourite books from childhood. This way, you get to time travel from the confines of your bedroom. You will be able to experience again the excitement of going on an adventure. Only this time, you will be accompanied by old friends, familiar scenery and the foresight of what is to come. These books can range from Enid Blyton and Geronimo Stilton to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.
During these uncertain times which might leave you feeling stuck or stagnant, the consistency of these bedtime stories have the power to lift your spirits by reminding you to believe in a happy ending, or at least the notion that ‘this too shall pass’. Knowing that you were battling beside your favourite characters as they triumphed over their struggles can be a great source of courage for you to keep moving forward as you understand that you are only in the middle of your life’s story.
Furthermore, revisiting these stories at an older age will give you perspective. Propelled with more lived experiences and a deeper understanding of the world, you will be able to see things in a different light. That is to say you might be able to articulate the bigger themes in the stories and relate in a completely new way. However, with critical thinking comes critique, that is to say you might be disappointed with certain aspects of the stories. This is only natural as culture has evolved over time, say what is deemed inclusive language or topics of interests. Even so, it would be interesting to recognize the differences, say what you like and dislike then versus now, as it gifts you a mirror to reflect upon your growth. That said, you should totally pick up your childhood favourites as they will always hold a special place in your heart and fill you up with warmth reminiscing simpler times.
Secondly, I would recommend books with representation. It is important to read books that look like you. This means books that represent your lived experiences, whether through narratives, main characters or settings. Characters representing your complex intersectional identities, say of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and/or socioeconomic background. Three dimensional characters whose hearts and minds are affected, however positive or negative, by their immediate surroundings, say family, community, country, culture and/or institutions.
It is important to read characters that look like you, talk like you, act like you, even dress like you. This is because it allows you to develop a healthy image of yourself. You feel seen, you feel like you’re not alone, you feel like somebody understands what you’re going through. You feel important enough to be the main character of your life’s story, you believe you have infinite potential reading stories where people like you achieve and experience various things. Personally, a recent book I loved fits right into this description. There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandya Menon is a romantic coming of age story that centers two Indian American teens navigating relationships with their families and internal insecurities. I related to this book on a spiritual level as I saw parallels between their lives and my own.
On the other hand, it is just as important to read books that do not look like you. Reading stories of people with different ways of life allows you to broaden your perspectives. You begin to understand that people have different points of view because they come from different backgrounds. You become more empathetic to the struggles of others. You are able to acknowledge privilege and discrimination. You are also able to reject stereotypes and unlearn prejudices.
Thirdly, I would recommend you read non-fiction books around your house. Unlike fiction which centers around imaginary affairs and people, non-fiction focuses on the facts of true events. There is probably a non-fiction book for every topic on the face of the planet, say medicine, marketing, history and astronomy. Biographies, journalism and essays are also part of non-fiction works. Non-fiction allows you the space to deepen your knowledge and skills on subjects you are interested in. It also allows you to learn from the experiences and epiphanies of others.
Moreover, it keeps you up-to-date on the latest discoveries and innovations. Hence, you will be able to navigate the world and your personal life with more wisdom and care. It also keeps your mind active and humble, and instills a life-long love of learning. Who knows, it can also inspire you to bring to light your own revolutionary ideas. Recently, I’ve enjoyed Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime in which he reflects on the intersections between the community and country he was raised in. Through the real life stories he recounts in his own brand of comedic genius, I learnt so much, from the consequences of apartheid to the journey of personal growth.
So what are you waiting for, pick up one of these books around your house and read away!
Written by Geerthanaa Santhiran