The Impact of Reading on My Soul

I recently read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s an urban fantasy that I would recommend to anyone (see also Sofia’s Favorite Reads of 2012). However, this isn’t a review on the book. What I want to talk about is a passage in the book that has little to do with the plot, but that fully grabbed my attention.

At the beginning of the novel, we get to know the main character, Margaret Lea, and her love – or perhaps, even, obsession – with books. I think that for many book lovers and writers, it’s a nice reflection on the importance of reading and of stories, some of which are simply interesting, and others that will ring true – like this one did for me:

“I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage in my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same.”

She goes on to write how she’s always yearning for a book that will give her the same sense of fulfillment that books did when she was a child. Without knowing it, I have this yearning, too. But as adults, I guess, our expectations are higher and, therefore, it’s more difficult for a book to meet and fulfill them. And since joining a writing group, there’s always that voice, which I can’t turn off, that critiques a story while I read it.

It’s most noticeable when someone I know, who I share a taste for books with, passionately recommends a book they (first) read as a child. When reading it as an adult, I wonder what they were thinking of, as I often can’t understand where their passion comes from.

Luckily, there are still plenty of books that do feed the soul – although never in that soul-altering, life-changing way they did when I was a child/teenager.



3 thoughts on “The Impact of Reading on My Soul

  1. Excellent thoughts, Vanessa! Looking back, it seems the same for me, too. I can’t think of a single book that has so affected me as an adult as the ones I read as a kid…yet when I went back to reread a book or two of the ones that I loved from childhood, I found that (with one exception) they were so poorly written! And these were BIG names in the SF industry (I read mainly horror and SF back then). The one exception was when I reread Dracula. Yes, I had a couple issues, but overall, I found I still loved that book! And I find so few books today even grab me. I’ve grown extremely picky. Stephen King’s work greatly interests me, and a couple others, but I’m kinda surprised at the dearth of work that really GRABS me….

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