One of the great appeals of reading fiction is the idea of escapism.
Books provide us with the opportunity to transcend our everyday lives.
As a child, I had a very intense and vivid imagination.
When reading a book, I would often become so immersed in the story that I would begin to confuse the fictional world with reality.
When reading, I would enter into a self-enclosed sphere of imagination in which my immediate surroundings momentarily ceased to exist.
The material world no longer featured as part of my own personal reality and, as a result, the things that my body required in order to function properly became completely irrelevant.
However, as I have grown older, my ability to become completely absorbed in a fictional novel has been somewhat compromised.
I come from a scientific family – my granddad was an engineer, my parents are doctors, one of my brothers is studying marine biology at university and the other one received a prize in Year 2 for ‘The Best Model of a Volcano’.
Therefore, although I like to consider myself a creative and imaginative person, there is a part of my brain that is inclined towards thinking in an analytical and logical manner.
As I have progressed out of childhood and through the teenage phase, I have noticed the logical side of my brain begin to exert increasing levels of dominance over the imaginative side.
I have seen this transition manifest itself most noticeably in the way that I now perceive the books that I used to find so captivating as a child.
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Very Hungry Caterpillar tells the story of (SPOILER ALERT) a caterpillar that is very hungry.
At the end of the book, the caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly.
Before completing this transition, he eats his way through increasing quantities of brightly coloured food items.
By the story’s climax, the caterpillar has consumed over 20 items of food, including an ice cream cone, a cupcake and a slice of Swiss cheese.
This was fascinating to me as a child.
However, as I have grown older and my knowledge of the anatomy of insects has developed, it has become harder for me to get invested in narratives such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
2. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt details the story of a family who spontaneously decide to go out into the wilderness and search for a bear.
The structure of the book is similar to that of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Before locating a bear, the family is forced to traverse various obstacles in the landscape.
As child, I found the wide range of obstacles that the family encountered so completely captivating that I failed to think about the fact that they were actively looking for a bear.
As I have grown up, I have spent some time watching David Attenborough documentaries and other educational films such as The Revenant.
I have therefore acquired a greater awareness of the physical threat that bears can present to humans.
As a result, I have developed a few issues with the basic principle of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
3. Harry Potter
Quidditch was always my favourite part of Harry Potter.
Whilst I found all of Harry’s magical adventures fascinating, I was particularly enthralled by the concept of Quidditch.
However, I recently dipped my head back into The Philosopher’s Stone and, whilst reading, I became slightly alarmed at the rate at which Harry Potter learns to fly a broomstick.
Within the space of a one hour Broom Skills lesson, he progresses from barely knowing how to hold the broomstick to driving it at high velocity.
I am aware that Harry is special and Hogwarts is magical but this accelerated rate of learning still seems quite dangerous to me.
I also found myself slightly concerned with Madame Hooch’s conduct within Harry’s first flying lesson, particularly the point at which she leaves a group of 11-year-old children unsupervised with a load of flying equipment that is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph in order to take Neville Longbottom to the hospital wing.
It occurred to me that Hogwarts should probably run an INSET day before the start of term in order to properly educate its staff in Health and Safety procedures.
Then again, the fact that there was a massive three-headed dog, a massive poisonous snake and a massive ‘whomping’ tree on the premises at various points during Harry’s time at the Hogwarts suggests that Health and Safety potentially wasn’t a prioritised matter on the agenda at any of the school’s board of governors meetings.
If I were a teacher at Hogwarts, I imagine that my flying lessons would be a little less exhilarating than Madame Hooch’s.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that I would be Hogwarts’ most hated teacher.
Although I am no longer able to use fictional books as a form of complete and utter escapism, I often use them to inform my real life.
It is comforting to know that, no matter how crazy or fantastical a book is, the struggles of its characters are always partially drawn from the author’s real life experiences.
If I am going through something difficult, sympathising with a character can make me feel less alone.
Or alternatively, if I am facing a difficult decision, observing how characters deal with their issues can sometimes give me an idea of how to move forward.
Books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and Harry Potter, for example, have provided me with some valuable advice on how to deal with my current quarter life identity crisis.