Each Book is a Gift a Writer Made for Strangers

Hi there Stranger!

This is worth sharing; a beautiful description of all the extraordinary things books can do. A love letter to books…


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, 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 you 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 There I lived for many years, in love with books, taking refuge in books, learning from books a strange data-rich out-of-date version of what it means to be human.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

Taken from the book ‘A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader’ – a collection of reflections on the joys of reading and books, written by 121 inspirational writers, poets, scientists, musicians and adventurers. (All proceeds to the New York Public Library.)


Gorgeous photos by Kinga Cichewicz and Nong Vang (Unsplash)