What makes a book ‘worth reading’, to me? I read everything that interests me … which is quite a lot! Of course, I’m extremely fond of great nature writing, but I have long loved biographies of amazing people, and beautifully crafted novels, whatever their genre.
As a writer whose stories also often require research, my reading habits are frequently focused on books that can help with my next project. For, example, during my research for The Ancient One, I read volumes and volumes about the history and practices of different indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest. And for my Merlin stories, I took a full year to read as much lore as I could get my hands on, beginning with the ancient Celtic “Mabinogian” text that dates back to the 12th century.
Even as a lover of biographies and histories, when I am seeking something new to read, there are times when what I most value in a story is its ability to send me on an adventure in my imagination. It’s really one of the closest things to magic I can think of in our world, because after all… there’s no easier way to ‘travel’ than a book — and no ticket is required!
As much as I value these journeys through my imagination when I am a reader, as a writer, I admit that some of the most memorable comments I’ve received from readers have been from those who have seen more in my stories. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of receiving messages from readers who have looked beyond the fantastic setting, thrilling battles, and mysterious creatures, and who have taken away a little more. Here’s a recent example from a girl in Massachusetts:
“I’m 15 years old and have read your Merlin series several times. What’s really fascinating is that every time I read those books, I find something new about Merlin, Rhia, Shim, and the other characters. And reading your books has really helped me with my own writing skills. So for that, I’d like to thank you. But my real thanks goes to you for something else, for helping me to figure out some of the enchantment of life. Now I know probably everybody has dreams of being a wizard with magical powers, and I sure do. But reading your books has helped me see that I could actually be a different kind of wizard in reality. I mean, I may not be able to leap from one place to another, or make a fireball come from my hand, or live backward in time, but that’s not all a wizard is about.
Mr. Barron, you’ve shown me that everyone, if they want to, can be a wizard – not on the outside with a long beard (which would be weird since I’m a girl), but on the inside. Like you said in one of your books, to have the heart of a wizard. And I do believe that possibility is in all of us.
So thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top, because now my heart has the magic of a wizard. And by the way, keep writing those awesome books!!!!!”
I’ve received so many wonderful comments from readers over the years that just thinking about them gives me a warm glow. Few things make me happier than knowing that something I wrote at my little desk in Colorado is making a real difference in the life of someone else, somewhere in the world. Even more proof of the magic of stories!