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The Intimate Relationship with a Book

When I fall in love with a book, the relationship quickly becomes intimate. So it’s always startling when someone else speaks the name of a book that I love. The first reaction is one of betrayal: how could the book have wandered?

What is behind this blind spot?  For surely this is what it is. The evidence is everywhere. The book is available to whoever wants to read it. It can be found in bookstores, libraries, even floating in the ether as zeros and ones. The rational mind knows other readers exist.

But the act of reading is a solitary endeavor. The book parades before us the interior of characters. We often know these characters better than the people in our lives. For me these fictional characters usually supplant the real, at least for the voyage of the book. And a really good book interrupts habitual thinking. It reshapes my interior landscape, making me think anew, see anew. It’s a personal revolution, quiet, but very real, very powerful, very intimate.

Until someone comes along and says she, too, has taken the voyage. After I’ve recovered from the first reaction, the next emotion is one of community. A rush of questions: what did you love about it? Tell me your favorite scene. And suddenly the private becomes communal.

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I suspect you're also happy to share a book that meant so much to you rather than keep it close as a sales failure. You can always tell yourself you were the most perceptive reader.