e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

A quote on one of the values of reading

Anyone who says they have only one life to live
must not know how to read a book.

This is an anonymous quote and I think I’ve come across it several times in the past. My own feeling is that the extra lives available from books are usually only part lives – very few books cover the whole of someone’s life. But if you read a lot, think how many extra lives you’ll have had by the time you reach the end of your real one.

There are, of course, other ways of getting these extras. Story and biography telling were originally oral. Sitting round the fire listening to the wise woman’s description of the deeds of your ancestors must have been similar to sitting in the library reading about Harry Potter.

Even when we aren’t reading, other lives are available to us through imagination. Last time I was at an airport, waiting for my flight to be called and annoyed at how time was crawling rather than running, I started to wonder where all my fellow waitees were in their minds. Perhaps they were exploring alien planets, swimming the coral sea, winning in the Olympics or dating the boy next door.

We also get some extra moments in our dreams. I frequently dream whole days with friends I haven’t seen for years or even with people I’ve never met. These too are extra experiences that add to our down-to-earth real-time lifespan.


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