I have a quote I copied down years ago on a piece of paper that I see occasionally on the desk in a room I rarely use. It’s from the English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth:
Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good:
Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness will grow.
When I noticed the quote this morning, it occurred to me what valuable wisdom it holds for these strange times of imposed isolation we’re living in at the moment.
Because, my body might be confined, but a good book of fiction can take me anywhere.
Take last weekend, for example. I spent the entire time in bed due to exhaustion. I slept, I chanted and I read. So although my body was anchored in a bedroom in Toronto, my mind — and my heart — were in 19th-century Ireland and Upper Canada.
An excellent book of fiction weaves a magic spell. The “tendrils strong as flesh and blood” that Wordsworth spoke of weave themselves around your consciousness and you experience another world you thought you didn’t know — except that the new, other world, strikes a chord within you. Your understanding of the human experience expands. And when you finally read the last page and close the book’s cover, the people within it stay with you, forever, even if only as a whispered feeling.
Here’s a list of some excellent books I’ve read that take you away and leave you changed for the better:
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
- Freedom Road by Howard Fast
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
- Away by Jane Urquhart
- In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
- The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
- The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly
- The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
- Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
- By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho
- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
How about you? Have you read any of the books in my list? Do you have any must-reads you’d like to recommend? Let us know below!