What is it about the rain that makes us want to curl up in a comfy chair with a good book? What do books do for us that make them the best companions on a rainy day?
Books are comforting, they are quiet, they are not intrusive, they are patient and undemanding, they are small and portable, and they can help us forget the rain outside or, in the case of a book like Wuthering Heights, they can enliven the rain and wind and make us experience them, too, whipping up our passions while keeping us safe and dry.
Books are comforting. We can choose what type of book to read based on our mood, but also on our personal or emotional needs. They can often keep us company and let us know that we are not alone in our experiences or suffering or personal dilemmas. We can learn from the behaviours, thoughts and actions of the characters in a book. I once read an article suggesting that those who read fiction tend to be more compassionate and empathetic than those who don't read fiction. I can imagine that this is true, since every novel takes us inside the thoughts and actions of the characters, and we experience situations vicariously through these characters that we would otherwise probably never experience in our own lives. In this way, fiction readers are regularly faced with "What would you do if...?" scenarios, and the actions and responses of the characters inform us of various possibilities and consequences. Sometimes we agree with what the characters do, and sometimes we disagree with their behaviour or responses, but it makes us think about the situations and consider what the possibilities and consequences are. I believe that this may make fiction readers more empathetic and compassionate than other types of readers.
Books are quiet and non-intrusive. They are patient and undemanding. They can sit on your coffee table or bookshelf quietly for days or even weeks, never nagging you to "Read me!" Books don't have a deadline or a "best before" date (well, unless they are library books that cannot be renewed, or a book that needs to be finished before your next book club meeting!). Isn't it wonderful to have something in your life that is not demanding something of you RIGHT NOW, that can be picked up and set aside at will, that truly fits with your schedule?
Books are small and portable. OK, maybe not always small, but they are usually of a manageable size to suit most people, even hardcover copies of James Clavell's Shogun or Michael Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. And if a book is too hefty to cart to work and back each day, a reader can always have an "at-home" book and an "at-work" book. Books come in all shapes and sizes, all moods and characters, all settings and tones. Whatever it is we as readers need, we can surely find between the covers of a book.
Books can help us forget the rain outside. They can take us to tropical beaches or winding Venetian streets. They can take us to Paris or Athens, or the crowded streets of Bombay. Or they can make us experience the weather as a character in and of itself. They can transport us to the windswept Yorkshire moors of the 1840s. I love pathetic fallacy, "nature in sympathy with the deeds of men". It rarely happens in real life, but often happens in the novel and while it may be considered contrived, I think it can also be very effective in helping to elicit the desired emotional responses from the reader towards a character's situation or actions when used skillfully by an author. Remember the classic line, "It was a dark and stormy night..."
So we can see that books are great companions for a rainy day. Next time, maybe we can consider why books are perfect companions for sunny days, snowy days, holidays, bus rides, train rides, solitary meals, shared evenings ...
Bye for now!