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Arts & Life


Elly Gates - Springfield High School
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For some reason I cannot explain, the first thing I notice when I open a book is its smell. This may be because I've always gotten my books from the public library, and they therefore tend to have very distinctive smells. To some, these smells that sometimes bleed from the pages of a particularly oft-read novel might serve as a deterrent from reading. But for me, it only adds to the pleasure I receive from books. I not only got to read the story in the book, but I got to imagine the people who had enjoyed it before I did. 

I was first able to pick out books for myself at the public library when I was in fifth grade. My mom would take my brother and I to the library and allow us to pick out five or six books to read over the next two weeks. I always headed straight for the young adult fantasy section. These books often featured people in other worlds, if not universes, and they fascinated me. They often smelled like a combination of peanut butter, sun screen lotion, and other things usually associated with childhood. They allowed me to escape from the roller-coaster ride that is puberty to a place where magic existed and unicorns still roamed the earth. It was in the fantasy section of Lincoln Library that my love of reading grew.

The pages of a book have provided a magical place into which I can escape, have educated me and have given me the strength to succeed in high school.

As I grew older, my taste in novels grew with me. In middle-school, my tastes changed to a love of historical fiction. I devoured anything about World War II and the Holocaust. While these subjects might seem morbid for a thirteen-year-old, most of the novels featured an uplifting, if not completely historically accurate, ending. They had a very different smell than the fantasy novels of my past. I found that historical fiction novels tended to smell slightly stale when they were first opened, which was a clue to me that they were not the most popular books in the library. Yet I loved these books because they provided me with an education I didn't always feel like I got at school. When I was sitting in U.S. History with my eyes glazed over, I yearned for my book at home about Thomas Jefferson or Harriet Tubman. Books have never failed to entertain me, but they've also managed to provide me with a secondary education.

When I made the transition to high school, my taste in novels changed yet again. I was now perpetually reading books that featured teenage girls like myself, such as Anne Brashares' Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. These novels were about girls who reminded me of my friends and who faced the same challenges that I was facing daily. They tended to smell of perfume and other classic girly scents. I loved these books because they made it easier to face high school. If the heroines of the novels I was reading could make friends, do well in school, and, one of the most important things at the time, interact with boys, so could I. As high school progressed, my choice in novels became much more widely ranged. I now will pick up and read almost anything, from the fantasies I used to love to epic novels by America's greatest authors. I have found that the subject of the book is unimportant; if the writing is good it will draw me in.

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Though I love the smells that permeate the books I check out at the library, the best smell has to be that of a new book. Cracking open the pages of an untouched novel is one of the biggest joys of my life. It is the start of another adventure that will enthrall me for days, if not weeks. The pages of a book have provided a magical place into which I can escape, have educated me and have given me the strength to succeed in high school. Because of this, there is nothing in which I believe so strongly as in the power of a good novel.

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