By Furera Bagel, PhD

 

What is the worst thing that can happen to you? I was once asked and my response was, “to find myself on a long trip without a book!”

 

The International World Book Day falls in this month, and as we celebrate, what better time is here to honor and humor the power and majesty of books?

 

Mothers are said to be the cradle of nurture of all good habits that last a lifetime, my own discovery of the written word at home came through my mum. She used to read to us stories from Hausa classic Literature like Magana Jari Ce and Tarihin Annabi. We so much looked forward to those times in the village when our father was far away, hardly accessible white man’s land getting an engineering education. Mama would sit us outside on mats in moonlit night and read from a lantern-illuminated book; we listened in awe to all the wonders of this strange world. 

Our perceptions about how vast the world is, how diverse cultures differ and the inclusion of magical realism of folk tales created an impenetrable bond and love for how and why things are or not, reading liberated a sprit in us that hunger for understanding, so we read some more.

I later developed more love for reading and would borrow some Enid Bytom’s Famous Five like any teenager growing up to read many popular fiction literature available to us would do, through friends and school mates.

But it wasn’t until at secondary school that I discovered whole new genres of literature in our school library. I hated prep so I would run to the library and read, while it was surrounded with books from all angles.

 

What does a book do for you? I am been asked several times due to my attachment to books. 

 

The response to that question is “everything!”.

Apart from my parents and schooling, books have inspired me to accomplish everything I did and yearn for more. 

 

Books have entertained, educated and inspired me and continue to do so.

 

Through books I was able to travel the Silk Road, explored polar regions, climbed the Everest, survived the Amazon rain forest, survived being marooned on a beach in a deserted island for 28 years, lived through the medieval and renaissance eras experienced the holocaust and the Intifada; above all the most exciting is to join Julian Barnes to travelled round the world in just 80 days in his heart griping book.

 

Before the advent of the worldwide wet (my apologies to the net) books where the first reference sources on History, science, religion and knowledge they say is power. This knowledge gives one the opportunity to understand certain issues better. It equips one with abilities to form informed opinions and conduct oneself with dignity and respect.

 

For example, Charles Dickens and Catherine Cookson’s novels exposed me to knowledge of how the British populace also had their own struggle with poverty and lack of social amenities to the extent that poor kids and orphans are taken to workhouses, a place where they are worked like slaves.

 

Books also elevated me to being close buddies with some celebrities through their biographies and autobiographies, because I have read their thoughts, their fears and hopes expressed permanently in their books. 

I can recall being ecstatic when I first heard that Justin Trudeau had been elected as Prime Minister of Canada. I was right there when he was born that Christmas night of 1971. I was even there when his father Pierre, a 40-year-old newly elected prime minister met the rebellious teenage Maggie at that isolated spot and fell in love with her. I was there when his little brother Sacha was born on another Christmas Day two years later and was devastated when I heard of their little brother Mica had died in an avalanche. 

A defining moment when I realized the impact of books on my life was back in 2014 when I applied for PhD at the University of Leeds. In an interview conducted via phone-call. After asking all the revenant questions on my proposed research topic,  “Language, Identity and Power In Relation to Gender in Northern Nigeria “, a final question I was asked was why I wanted to study in Leeds?

 

I replied that one of my most favorite books was Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance, which was set in Leeds thus making it my most favorite place to visit when in Britain. Emma Hart’s drive to succeed in life inspired me to success, no matter what odds are is against me. I also told them that I wanted to go to Yorkshire and see the moors, which made them laugh.

 Two minutes after the interview I got a call to inform me that even though it was not official, I was in. Though I couldn’t go to Leeds then due to lack of funding, I will always cherish that interview and the effects of that book on it.

 

Just as they have educated, entertained and inspired me, books will continue to serve these purposes for as long as they’re being written, language, writing, imaginations are all recipes for meaningful experiential existence of every human blessed enough to have a story to tell to hear. May books remains with us for as long as we breathe. 

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