“How do we diminish the distance between us?” author Michelle Kuo asks in her TED talk, The Healing Power of Reading. Her answer? Books, of course. “Reading is one way to close that distance. It gives us a quiet universe that we can share together, that we can share in equally,” she muses.
Reading is an incredible way to experience the world without leaving our homes. We can travel in time across centuries, experience new countries without boarding a plane, and learn to understand people and cultures we have never met. For some, reading can be an escape – from a hard day at work to heartbreak, financial trouble, and everything in between – as diving into a book is a wonderful way to get lost in someone else’s story while leaving your own behind. For others, stories are an insight into situations and lifestyles we could never understand on a personal level.
For me personally, books are not only an escape route into another life but also act as a comfort in my own. When I was 21, I landed my dream job as a journalist and moved to Sydney on my own, pulled away from my family and friends and thrust into a new – solitary – life. Sydney might be the busiest city in Australia, but it is also known to breed the loneliest people. Without my beloved support network around me, I felt myself shrinking into myself and experiencing deep bouts of loneliness.
When I discovered a library within walking distance of my new apartment, my spirits lifted. Once I’d secured a borrowing card, I spent hours trawling the aisles, running my finger along spines in search of characters who could provide companionship, and beautiful stories that would keep me inspired. Each week, I left with my arms heaving and returned with a whole new range of friends and tales. Who knew a library card could unlock so much joy and companionship?
Whether we’re going through a tough time or just need some light-hearted escapism, there is undeniably a healing power in reading. Keep an eye out for community libraries, book exchanges, and street libraries to give and receive books. And if you know someone is struggling, a well-chosen book can go a long way to lifting them up – even if just for a moment. As Kuo says: “Reading can give us a shareable world of powerful human connection.”