Can books become true friends of ours? One Ravenclaw attempts to defend her BFFs.
Several weeks ago, I was engaged in a Wizarding World Book Club discussion on Twitter (@wwbookclub) about the following quote from Hermione, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, about the importance of friendship. (For more on the Wizarding World Book Club and information on joining in, take a look at the Pottermore website.)
“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things–friendship and bravery and–oh Harry–be careful!”
The theme that week was friendship and the question the club members were discussing was whether each of us would agree with Hermione’s assessment above. Is friendship and bravery truly more important than books and cleverness? A point I raised at the time was to ask about what happens to this question when books ARE our friends. A discussion about whether books could be friends began…
Some would argue that books cannot become our true friends or cannot replace friendship, because it is a one-sided relationship. That the books share their ideas with us, but we can’t necessarily talk to them or exchange ideas in return. I understand that argument, but disagree for a few reasons. I think that a friendship with a book is a vehicle for what is a friendship with oneself. I do believe it is possible (and even necessary) to become friends with yourself. Each one of us is certainly complex enough to have dynamic conversations with ourselves–whether through inner reflection, talking aloud or writing–and books often provide an excellent catalyst for these conversations. It is within these conversations with ourselves that I believe a large amount of our own personal growth occurs and, to me, that is a loving act toward ourselves.
So could we say books are more of a medium for friendship, rather than friends themselves? Maybe. But that doesn’t sway me from believing that a friendship with books is possible. When we think about friendships and what we value about them, we probably think of time spent with those we genuinely love: chatting, sharing stories, giving opinions, pursuing common interests, laughing together and generally enjoying one another’s company. And just as importantly, we think of friends as people who are there with us through thick and thin to support us, who tell us when we’re wrong, help us when we struggle, celebrate our accomplishments with us and love us in return.
Aren’t books also capable of doing many of these things? They make us laugh, they chat to us, they share their stories, facts and opinions. And they can be there for us, waiting when times are tough and we need help, advice or support. They tell us when we’re wrong and they help to teach us new things. They helps us grow as people.
Perhaps books can’t really love us back. They are ideas. They are stories. They are truths. But loving a book is also an act of self-love. Because, though you may find an author’s work brilliant and love the characters or themes in the book, at the end of the day it’s you that has made them come alive. It’s your act of reading and imagining and considering and understanding that has created the special connection. It’s you that you’ve laughed with and you that you’ve cried with. And beyond that, it’s how you’ve shared that moment, without even knowing it, with everyone else in the world who has read and loved that same book, that same passage. To be in conversation with a book is to be not just in conversation with yourself, but also within the larger discourse all humans share. It’s the way you’ve allowed your mind to open to a new story and a new way of thinking. Books connect us to themselves, ourselves and each other. And I can think of no greater expression of love and friendship than that.
What do you think? Can books be considered friends? After reading this, would you consider some books to be friends of yours, too?