Connections through Books
I was recently reading a letter from the wife of a British missionary in New Zealand in the 1840s and came across a particularly moving passage. In it, she writes to her cousins back in England of the “new books” she has recently received in the colony. The cousins then have a sort of book club back-and-forth about what they thought of the books, discussing what they did and didn’t like.
I found this whole episode completely remarkable and was struck by the value of books as a way of maintaining connections with other people, be they your cousins or complete strangers, as is more often the case out here in the book blogging territory. Books create an unparalleled connection between people: that of a simple shared text. Even a woman thousands of miles from home in the 1840s could still feel a little bit like home through the books read both by her and by her family back in England.
And it’s still like that for readers today. We may not share daily experiences or the same personal backgrounds, but are all connected by a shared experience of reading the same books. Of course, we don’t all get the same thing out of these books we all read, but at least we have that basic starting point.
This immediate connection is one of the things that I most love about book-blogging. Reading these nineteenth-century letters just made me love and appreciate even more the rich history we share with the women readers who came before us and were doing exactly the same thing: making connections through books.