Books, Our Hiraeth

Musings Mar 20, 2022

“Every time I pick up a book, it takes a while for me to get back in touch with reality”


It is a Welsh word that describes the feeling of homesickness or yearning for a home you cannot return to or a home that was never yours.

It is also the word to describe a person’s relationship with books.

As someone who was never much of an extrovert, people believed that my reluctance to socialize would affect me. I couldn’t help it. Words always came out in stutters and in between nervous laughter. Overthinking every word in a conversation was almost inevitable. Being in a crowd meant locating every exit and contemplating making a break for it. As a solution, I decided to avoid anything social. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I now understand the confused look on my friends’ faces every time I told them I couldn’t join them.

My whole world revolved within the four walls of my room, and silence became my favorite song. It took time to realize that certain situations influence choices in unimaginable ways. I would often find the fear of missing out creeping in, but even the brief consideration of socializing would shut that fear right down. Thinking back, the best thing to come out of that phase in my life was my love for books, be it fantasy, fiction, or nonfiction.

My mother said that I’ve always loved to read since my childhood. Time in isolation reignited my lost passion for books, be it writing or reading them (the former may be a bit of a stretch). Sylvia Plath and Dan Brown would obscure my problems and transport me to other realities. Reading stories about powerful characters like Katniss Everdeen and Anne Shirley Cuthbert got me to understand the real reason I loved them as much as I did. I wanted to be like them.

Their stories had me thinking I could also be strong, and maybe my biggest fear would be spiders or clowns and not expressing myself. Often finding myself in reverie, exploring an archipelago of forest islands, or fighting alongside Harry Potter in the battle of Hogwarts, the truth got clearer: Circumstances do not define a person; choices do.

Books are the writer’s Meraki, because every time you write something, you’re leaving behind a piece of you. Every reader is allowed the chance to reinterpret past and present experiences of the writer, more like the most sought-after superpower: mind-reading.

Mind reading does not necessarily mean intruding thoughts and getting front-row seats to questionable choices. Think of books as the window to the author's mind and the words as iterations of their fears, beliefs, and fantasies. It’s like a stroll inside an author’s mind; sometimes pleasant and other times not.

In today’s world, where most find themselves as hostages to their sensibilities, an escape to another reality is probably the metanoia we never knew we needed. One can bury their orientation in books, aware that they would not judge you. They provide solace, make you sonder, and transport you to other realities when your current one takes a messy turn.

“A reader lives a thousand lives”

George R.R. Martin said these words. The numerous lives you live and the far-off places you travel to through a book contradict the saying: you only live once.

I, for one, have lived out hundreds of lives through every book I’ve read. At times, it felt like I belonged in alternate realities more than my own. Perhaps that was because, in books, I got to be everything I wasn’t. I journeyed to the center of the earth and lived in different eras. Books provide scope for the imagination; they inspire and induce passion in their readers.

Books can be your best friends, your getaway, or maybe even your calling. It is in human nature to have a longing to belong. So, next time you feel out of place or like you do not belong, read a book. Maybe in one of those stories you read, you may find yourself connecting and relating to it through a bond entirely out of this plane of existence. A sense of homesickness runs through you when you put the book down: you want to stay there and not come back. It is a home you cannot now return to or a home that was never yours.

There is a word for that longing, you know?



Vanji Yazhini Udayakumar

Probably zoned out with coffee in one hand and a book in the other while Selena Gomez plays on the stereo