There is an exchange that happens when we read. A piece of you sticks between the pages and pieces of the book plant themselves inside of you. The book becomes heavier, as Funke puts it, and we are forever changed. Who we are, what we aspire to, is forever altered for the better. We no longer seek the ordinary, we seek heroics and adventure in our own way. But what stories shape us? Not every book opened has the ability to alter the core of you while other books have shaped generations.
It would seem the stories that shape us are the ones who’s themes we repeatedly seek. This is unique to the reader. Perhaps you seek independence and resourcefulness. Intelligence and comradery could be what draws you to a story. These are the things we value. When we see them depicted in a glorious and fantastical way our valuing of them seems justified, our belief in those values is strengthened.
There are certain themes that rise above. Themes of courage and love. The stories that show us truth as well as hope are the ones that don’t just impact the reader but change the world. If you think I’m exaggerating look at some of the political statistics attached to readers of Harry Potter.
You can learn much about yourself by looking at your bookshelf. What stories do you see most? Political upheaval? Mystery? Heroic action? Thankless vigilante action? Look deeper than the first page, if you will, and ponder why those stories repeat themselves. Why do you read them over and over? Because that is what you value. This is why people of different financial and social backgrounds, but similar bookshelves, can have similar voting patterns, similar world views. We enable ourselves to step out of ourselves, beyond ourselves, and seek something more when we open a book. By reading we learn that we are not limited by what we are but by what we strive to be. In the wise words of J.K. Rowling via Albus Dumbledore “…it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!”
I want you to think of yourself. What do you think of? How you look, where you live, your family, your geographical location? Now I want you to look at your bookshelf. What stories fill the shelves? Fantasy, adventure, intelligent problem solvers, stories of exploration? I now want you to think about that quote from Dumbledore while looking at your books. I want you to realize that you are absorbing those stories. That is who you are choosing to be. Those are the stories that shape you. You are what you chose to be.