Books Are Us

An excerpt from a blogpost last year written by author Andrew Doerr’s blog:

Maybe we build the stories we love into ourselves. Maybe we digest stories. When we eat a pork chop, we break up its cellular constituents, its proteins, its fats, and we absorb as much of the meat as we can into our bodies. We become part pig. Eat an artichoke, become part artichoke. Maybe the same thing is true for what we read. Our eyes walk tightropes of sentences, our minds assemble images and sensations, our hearts find connections with other hearts. A good book becomes part of who we are, perhaps as significant a part of us as our memories. A good book flashes around inside, endlessly reflecting. Its shapes, its people, its places become our shapes, our people, our places.

We take in a story. We metabolize it. We incorporate it.

Imagine you could draw a map of all the experiences you’ve had in your life, and superimpose it over a map of all the books you’ve read in your life. Here you worried your daughter was failing out of school, here you gave a nun a stick of chewing gum, here you saw a man dressed as a referee weeping in a Honda Accord. And here a boy in an egg-blue suit handed you an ornate invitation to a party at Jay Gatsby’s, here you met the harpooner Queequeg at the Spouter Inn, here you floated a stretch of the Mississippi with a slave named Jim. Here you crouched in a tent in the rain and read Isak Dinesen’s “The Blue Jar” for the very first time.

Everything would be intertwined; everything would transubstantiate. There would be your life, your memories, your loves and doubts. Then there would be the faint tracery of the lives of your parents, your grandparents, their parents. Then there would be your dreams. And then there would be all the books you have ever read.


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