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Rebecca Solnit and the magic of books

    Rebecca Solni
    Art by Liniers for Rebecca Solnit’s letter from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader

    A book is like an umbrella, if they are to work, you have to open them. Only your imagination can unlock a book. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader by Maria Popova is an interesting way to explore the love of books with letters and how books play a significant role in their lives which are accompanied by lust-rich illustrations as a response to the letters. I found this book a little late but it grows with me each day. The power of words with images is a seed that easily germinates in young minds. Rebecca Solnit’s letter with artist’s Liniers response is a thing of beauty.

    “Nearly every book has the same architecture — cover, spine, pages — but you open them onto worlds and gifts far beyond what paper and ink are, and on the inside, they are every shape and power. Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, and jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end, you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights that can shine on almost anything.

    The books of my childhood were bricks, not for throwing but for building. I piled the books around me for protection and withdrew inside their battlements, building a tower in which I escaped my unhappy circumstances. There I lived for many years, in love with books, taking refuge in books, learning from books a strange data-rich out-of-date version of what it means to be human. Books gave me refuge. Or I built refuge out of them, out of these books that were both bricks and magical spells, protective spells I spun around myself. They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.

    And I grew up to write books, as I’d hoped, so I know that each of them is a gift a writer made for strangers, a gift I’ve given a few times and received so many times, every day since I was six.”

    Rebecca Solnit