The Dangerous Truth of Reading Books


With the beginning of season two of The Magicians, I have decided to reread Lev Grossman’s beautifully crafted novels; any excuse, am I right? Today I got just a few pages into the first book when Grossman’s description of the relationship Quentin has with the Fillory books resonated so strongly with me:

But there was a more seductive, more dangerous truth to Fillory that Quentin couldn’t let go of. It was almost like the Fillory books – especially the first one, The World in the Walls – were about reading itself. […] it’s like he’s opening the covers of a book, but a book that did what books always promised to do and never actually quite did: get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better. (The Magicians, Lev Grossman)

Yes, yes I know that feeling. I have read a lot of unremarkable stories and novels looking for just that promise. There is such a need to be able to escape the mundane and terrible parts of life and be free to live somewhere else, as someone else, even for just a moment.

I set down my copy of Grossman’s book to try and remember what my equivalent of the Fillory books was. I never got into Narnia or Camelot, though the halls of Hogwarts definitely held allure for me. Now as an adult, there have been many that have filled my imagination. Clearly that was my draw to The Magicians. I unfortunately have not literally been transported to any place in a book, yet. Until I do I think these are the closest I have gotten to the “seductive, more dangerous truth” of books:

  1. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, that allows me to be lost above and below the ground in London.
  2. Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, where the image of huts that have warmth and fur and breathe as living creatures still follows me into my dreams.
  3. George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. The mix of what feels like human history meeting magic. Every book in the series, every character, and every place transports me into a world that is both the same old politics of humankind and the possibility of a larger, mythical purpose.
  4. Falling from story into story into story of the Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
  5. The Angelus Trilogy (Jon Steele) where bells have a life of their own and angels and demons attempt to lead the fates of humankind using time/space and potions and ancient texts.

As one who loves books that create new delights and ways of seeing possibility, I am curious what books have transported you? Please share in the comments section.

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Gretel Shadebender

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