I read excessively and to distraction. I carry at least two books with me at any one time. Given the choice between buying groceries or that new book that just came out that I’ve been waiting for, books always win. People ask me to describe myself, and I say I’m a reader. It’s probably the most important thing that someone can know about; my defining trait, my absolute truth.
I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. The first full length novel I ever read was Little Women (and I still own that beloved copy). A few words in and I was lost; lost to the world, lost in my obsession.
It’s always the story that gets me. The characters could be absolutely delightful, but without a plot, without direction, I simply don’t care. And I have read so many books with good stories and with bad. I’ve read books that, once I get to the end, will immediately turn back to the beginning and start all over, fall in love all over. Then there are the books I wish I hadn’t laid eyes on, the ones that make you want to throw it across the room as if the bent pages and dented cover might actually do it harm. We want to punish them for the horridness we were subjected to.
There is much that I’ve learned from the stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. But what novels have taught me probably isn’t what you’d expect. They haven’t taught me to believe in love at first sight, the perfect marriage, the final happy ever after. Nothing is ever that perfect in real life. But there are some lessons I’ve learned along the way, so I’m going to share them with you lovely people.
1. Enjoy the little things. Most of my favorite parts of a story aren’t the significant moments. Nothing terribly important is happening. But a character will say something or do something and even though its so small in the grand scheme of the story, it moves me. Those are the moments that I remember when I tell someone about the book, the moments that make me smile. We have those same moments in our own lives. There are so many things we do throughout our lives that seem insignificant. But maybe those random conversations, spontaneous outings, or split-second decisions will make up the memories that make us smile. So enjoy and make the most of them.
2. It isn’t about the love story. I read a lot (cough cough) of novels that are heavy on the romance. There is a hero who doesn’t see the loveliness of the heroine until its almost too late; or a heroine who hates the hero until he woos her with thoughtfulness and sincerity. But the best love stories aren’t even about the romance. They are about watching the characters grow into themselves and learn who they are outside the romance. It is easy for us to let love become the point of our story. But finding your significant other is only one chapter; the rest is about finding yourself. You need to know who you are alone before you can discover who you want to be with someone else. So take the time to create yourself.
3. The hard times are worth it. I’ve never read a book where something tragic didn’t happen. There is always some kind of conflict, some horrid event. Even authors who write towards a happy ending know a character isn’t real if he or she doesn’t overcome something. When the lives of the characters are all happiness and rainbows, we don’t really believe it. Something bad has to happen; we need to see the characters come through on the other side stronger than they were at the beginning. Real life works the same way. We can’t expect it not to. But the struggles we work through, the tragedies we overcome makes us into the people that we are. And what is life about if not to discover what we’re made of? All those hard times lead to new experiences. So embrace the difficulties and the hope that follows.
4. Never compromise. Books always have that one character that settled for something less. Maybe he didn’t take a risk to get what he wanted, or maybe she didn’t think she deserved it. We always feel for these characters, because their sadness is painful to see. And yet, we want to shake them and tell them they deserve to be happy and satisfied in their lives. They should never settle for less than what they deserve. And neither should you. Don’t compromise your happiness by taking something that is merely close enough. At the end of the day, you are the choices that you make, and you should never feel like you made a mistake. So go after what you want and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
5. You never get the ending you want. Heroes and heroines always have very specific ideas about how they see their story ending. Rarely, however, does the author give them what they want. Instead, they get exactly the sort of ending they need. And usually its far better than anything the characters could have dreamt up to begin with. We know what we want in our lives. We know the direction we want our lives to take, the happy ending that we want to have. To be brutally honest… you aren’t going to get it. Nothing in life is every going to work out precisely the way you want it to. You are going to make mistakes, and the people around you aren’t going to follow your script. And by trying to make everything fit into your perfect ending, you miss out so much life. So forget about the ending, because it will never be what you imagine it will, and focus on the story that gets you there.
There you are, some of things my books have taught me. Maybe these will encourage you to pick up a book yourself. Maybe you think these are ridiculous. Either way, know that we can learn life lessons from the most common of places. And sometimes its nice to be entertained while being taught something new.
Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.