She is too fond of books,
and it has turned her brain.
-Louisa May Alcott
I must admit that I first encountered this sentence on a book bag I saw a lady carrying in a Winnipeg McNally Robinson. As I currently occupy my time as a history student at the graduate level, I must admit that this sentence now often comes to mind. This is especially true when I find myself poring over a book late into the night when the usual activity of the surrounding city is dulled to a sleepy state, while, at the same time, my mind and imagination race with the possibilities presented by the matter I encounter between the printed pages of text I thumb. Therefore, I consider this sentence written by Louisa May Alcott in the nineteenth century with great affection. Books have fascinated me since I can remember. Even before I could read, I remember noticing the books my parents held between their hands and considering, as they read, "What could there possibly be on those pieces of paper which demands their concentration?"
It is the potential which lies within books which has long inspired my fascination. Scholarly works provide incite into the complexities related to the authors' thoughts and processes, as well as the complexities of the subject matter. Meanwhile, works of fiction are veritable rabbit holes of possibilities. Quite selfishly, it seems that in a world where so many experiences are shared by many through television and film, books offer the possibility for individual experience. Of course many people read the same books, but the content of these books are first experienced individually. The characters and settings are subject greatly to the construction of the reader's imagination. I find that bibliophiles usually share this common understanding that books are great bastions for fantasy and thought; a sort of security blanket for the contents of one's own mind.
I find that without complexities and imagination life loses something important. What is life if one cannot dream of something greater or ponder the meaning of the surrounding world? So perhaps it is a bit odd to own eight different published version of the same book because you like the variations in their presentation. Or considering the different methodology used in that new work of social history published by the University of Toronto Press, only to realize that, yes, I am in fact grocery shopping, and, yes, I have been staring at this tomato that I hold in my hand for well over a minute. Or thinking, "What would Oscar Wilde be wearing were he alive today? Would he ride the bus?" and, "When I finally get to England I am SO going to that Charles Dickens theme park I've heard about." So, perhaps books do have the ability to "turn a brain", but books hold the potential to be a shining salve which works away life's accumulated grit.