Ever since I was in elementary school, reading has been an important part of my life. My earliest memories consist of me hidden behind shelves of books in the school library, or begging my parents to take me to the public library in my town, eager to lose myself between the pages of stories. Since then, I've become a hopeless bibliophile. I currently have at least twelve new books that I haven't read, and continue to buy more despite the huge pile that sits on my desk.

For me, books mean so much more than just enjoyment. During my hardest days, I turn to my favorite stories to take my mind off of whatever is happening and remind myself that I'm not alone in my struggles. I turn to stories to remind myself of the beauty of this world and of humanity, which is easy to forget when everything is crumbling around you.

Books hold such an importance to me because they are constant in a world that is ever-changing. Through my love of reading, I have also discovered my passion for writing. I am constantly inspired and encouraged by my favorite authors to share my work, even if I think it is the worst thing in the world. Some of my favorite stories have inspired several of my own stories and on a larger scale, my entire life.

I think another aspect of why I love books is because it gives me a myriad of perspectives on the human condition. What is our purpose? Why do we hurt? I have read stories that focus on concepts that I've explored throughout my life, and it is comforting to know that I am not alone in what I've been through. It is also interesting to see what others think of this world that we live in and thus, my perspective is broadened as I realize that how I view the world is not necessarily how everyone else sees it.

Books and stories give us the best of both worlds. When we're sad, we can open up a humorous story and drink in its simplicity and lightness. When we're angry, we can open up a story about a character who stands up for what they believe in, or learns from their anger and experiences. And, one of my personal favorites, when we are happy, we can open the pages of a world where happiness is overflowing. Books and stories have something to offer, no matter what season in our lives we're in. We can learn so much from our favorite characters, and stories can help us reevaluate how we are living our lives and treating others.

So, the next time you find yourself with nothing to do, crack open a book. You will find a universe within that is beyond your wildest dreams. You will laugh, cry, smile and hurt along with fictional people that seem more real than anything else. Most importantly, you will grow and change and become.