— India Currents | December 2012
“The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music swells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1902-1932.
Books make us feel, think, wonder, question, understand. The best linger, haunt, guide, tempt. Months, years later, a novel may steal into the reader’s consciousness with the recollection of a particular scene, passage, or even a bit of dialogue, a description, a revelation. Something, from a page once read, connects the reader to the moment.
When I find myself discussing or asking for recommendations of books, the talk invariably turns to why we booklovers gravitate toward novels. More often than not, the answer is, for entertainment and pleasure. I, too, often fall into that easy category. But even so, truth—sometimes hard truth—must be present in order to make the fiction credible, and within that truth, we discover the purpose of the book. The most compelling novels offer more than just a good story. They provide many things, including reflection, enlightenment, instruction, remembrance, enrichment, connection, enhancement, introspection, surprise, empowerment, inspiration, education, reinforcement, or activation.
As I watched the recent election cycle unfold, four works of fiction that impacted me as a person prodded, tickled, and filled my mind. One novel inspired me as a woman. The second re-educated me about human awareness and understanding. The third reinforced my belief in the basic goodness of people. And the fourth persuaded me to answer its call to action. The messages of these novels became doubly important during the months of political debates, campaigns, controversies.