Stories are healing. And books are passports to different worlds. When this one seems unsupportable, a good book is a portal to someplace better – or at least someplace else. Even as a little kid, I read for the thrill of the journey out of my small day into another life, another town, another universe.
I love to read. I love it more than chocolate. But life just gets faster and faster and crazier and more addled and I let go of my reading, forfeit to the challenges of making a living, raising a kid by myself, running a (cluttered, book-strewn) home in a rent-stabilized New York City brownstone. No time, high-stress, big case of ADD in progress.
And I got lost. You can’t live too much in this world. It isn’t healthy. Without regular excursions into the imagination, we begin to die. So, one day, staring at a 14-foot high wall of books that badly need dusting, I chose to read. No more guilt so profound I can’t finish a book because the laundry isn’t done, the money isn’t scraped off the pavement, the obligations are unmet. Just reading. A life in books.
Each human life is a narrative. I really believe that. More than blood and bones and skin and brains and whatever our business cards say we are, our lives are narratives. Stories are essential because we are stories. The bard is the source of all magic and meaning in this illusion we label life. Stories are dangerous, alchemical, subversive. Storytellers are witches, priestesses, earthquakes, hurricanes. There is a power on the printed page, or the screen, that can alter reality in a sentence, a phrase.
So I decided to read a book a day for a year. It’s a mad quest and I have no idea how I will manage it. I have no time to read but I will find the time. Reading will show me the way forward into a new reality in which everything we thought we knew is stood on its head. Reading is my map to an unchartable future.
I’m not going to read this or that book. I’m just going to grab everything and open the covers and dive in. Fiction, non-fiction, genre books, children’s books (I love children’s books), current books, bestsellers (if they are readable, many are not)—everything but book-like objects and unpublished manuscripts. It will be a great adventure. And I will be someone else at the end of a year in which my practice and my discipline is to take a single step aside and find myself in another world. One book. Every day. For one year. Scary. Sweet.
– Maerwydd McFarland