When I read a good book, one of two things generally happens (and if I'm lucky, both): 1) I gain a new understanding of something or somebody, and 2) I find that I am not as alone as I think. What better way to reach out into the world than to hear somebody else's story? To hear and listen, and bring what you've learned to bear on your own life? To find out that the world---or adventure, or knowledge or faith--is at once larger and closer than you ever imagined?
In her essay, "Up from Elsie Dinsmore", in Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, Katherine Paterson writes about how the isolation of being a "weird little kid" drove her to seek company in books, and how those books shaped her as a person. I was a shy kid myself, and I made friends in books too, getting to know all sorts of people with whom I would have been too timid to strike up a conversation. In getting acquainted with these people I found out that my fears and thoughts and hopes and dreams were not so strange after all. I found company in every book, met kindred spirits, experienced the world through different eyes, and was challenged to reach beyond myself.
So I'm curious. Were you a reader as a kid, and if so, were books more than just entertainment? What books took you beyond yourself to new ideas or new friends? Do you have the same experience with books as an adult?