Wednesdays with Words: Books are Magic

From Susan Hill’s Jacob’s Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading. I so enjoyed her Howard’s End is on the Landing a few years’ ago at Cindy Rollins’ recommendation. I really enjoy reading about readers and their reading.

This book has caught me in fits and starts. In some ways it’s perfect for busy reading because it’s short bits here and there as the author thinks of them. In other ways it’s less cohesive than other books I’ve read and easy to set down because the narrative isn’t strong.

But I read this part last week … and it’s genius immediately reminded me about being a reader and I knew you’d all enjoy it.

I was thinking that when we read as children we just give ourselves over to the book. The story. The characters. The places. The atmosphere. We immerse ourselves in it, we soak ourselves. On the whole, we are uncritical, too, or at least critical only in a very simple way, ‘I loved that.’ ‘I want to read the next one like that.’ Or ‘I didn’t like that story.’ ‘It was a bit boring.’ Nothing more sophisticated, no reasons given, none necessary. (pg 55)


Reading is magic. Books are magic. It starts when we are shown picture books and realise there is another world beyond the everyday one we know. Once we can read ourselves, we live inside the magic. The only problem is that we have to emerge at the end of a book, and we don’t want to leave and return to that dull domestic world we know. The only solution to that problem, of course, is that there is always the next book, and the next and there is bonus magic if it is another in a series we already love, so we are plunging back into a magic other world but one we already know. We feel a lift of the hear, a lurch of the stomach, when we find ourselves in it again. (pg 55-56)

Oh, the passage goes on

… we have to do something WITH our books. Talk about them. Describe them. Recount the plot. Write an essay about them. And later, analyse, criticise, discuss. The magic world has a new purpose, a Gradgrind purpose, an examination purpose.

So wonderful. Wednesdays with Words is here to do something WITH our books and I hope that it isn’t a Gradgrind purpose but a joy to you as it is to me.

I love to read about readers reading.


One Comment

  1. Book recommendation for you: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch. As a way of processing grief after the loss of her beloved sister, Sankovitch read a book a day for a year! Lots of great insights and reflections, and I culled quite a reading list from this book!

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