One of the things I love most about books is getting to know the characters who dwell within their pages. Not just getting to know them, but loving them, becoming their friends. If anyone tries to tell me Hermione Granger and I are not BFFs, I’d shake my head and tell them they’re crazy. Crazy. If this illustrates anything, other than perhaps my own capacity for delusion, it illustrates the immense power of books.
Books introduce us to people we wouldn’t normally meet in real life and make us fall in love with them. They allow us to see past characters’ exteriors and into their minds and hearts. In short, they give us empathy. And couldn’t the world benefit from a little empathy right now? If we could actually see what it is like to be someone else, perhaps we wouldn’t look across political party lines with a permanent scowl. Perhaps we’d be slower to judge, more likely to ask questions, to try to understand where they are coming from.
It’s with this thought in mind that I examined my favorite books of 2016. All fabulous books. All white, female writers. Kinda like me. So while I spent the year preaching equality and acceptance, I wasn’t using one of the easiest, most accessible tools to enhance my own understanding of other people and other opinions. I wasn’t reading anything out of my comfort zone.
So rather than continue to gaze outward, criticizing what I find wrong with the world, I’m trying to look to the inside. Like Michael Jackson said, I’m starting with the man in the mirror. Er, woman. I’m not claiming I’ll totally transform my reading habits, just aiming to add a little diversity into the mix. Read stories and authors from around the world. Try to empathize with those different from myself. Because who knows could be my next literary best friend? Just kidding, Hermione, it will always be you.