Like many, my love of books began as a small child. In books I found a deep source of sustaining connection and realization that brought me, again and again, into the recesses of liminal space and the imagination. 

In such books I saw myself, I saw the realities of others that were so different than my own, and I ventured deep into the possibilities and vastness of reality. Through reading the insights and realities of others I began to love the soul of books.

The first books that I truly loved were fairy tales and folk tales. I could watch the Alice in Wonderland movie from 1951 repeatedly and never tire of it. I still somewhat jokingly say that Alice in Wonderland is what brought me to my career as a spiritual author, healer, and teacher.

As a teenager, I found magical realism and the words of such greats as Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is required reading in my book for any animist or lover of the short story) touched me in such a place of enormous feeling that I could not yet express fully myself. 

Their souls, their words and stories, allowed for me to know so deeply who I was and to be seen for the first time. Through them I knew that I was not the only one who felt, who saw, who knew in a way that I once felt so alone in.

For a book to have soul it must make us feel. It is a bodily act, not an intellectual one. 

Works of great intellect can also pair with soul; wisdom is the pairing of intellect with knowing from life experience and bodily feeling.

To be an author is to give birth, to be involved in a soul-making, soul-baring process in which what emerges is another life-form. Something with a soul, a body, a way of being in the world all its own. 

A book that has soul becomes an individualist in a world that so often prizes sameness and mediocrity. It makes us reconsider reality from a different vantage point, and for this reason it is often loved by many and hated by others. 

To react to a book, no matter the reaction, is an indication that the book has a spirit all its own.

True magic, true soul, breaks the conditioning of our world and what we know to be true wide open. 

It allows for us to move beyond the hedge into the wild terrain of the Other. 

To know that there is a magic in a world that continually repeats back to us that we live in a magic-less world is an act of rebellion of the best kind.

A book is a being unto itself. It is a unique soul that offers us what we need when we need it. A truth, a way of seeing, a way of being, that allows for us to become more ourselves.

Books of soul can make us cry, anger us, or engage us to the extent that we cannot put them down. A book that we can read multiple times and it brings us something new each time is a book that we should truly cherish.

A book that is enlivened with soul has a spark to it… we remember it long after we have read it. The book may jump out in front of us at a bookstore, mysteriously end up on our kindle, or we may have a friend recommend it at just the right time in our lives.

A book with a depth of soul is a talisman. It has a vibration, a life-force all its own. To own such a book is to have a piece of magic in your home.

Opening such a book and reading it is delving into liminal space, a gateway to other worlds and new ways of thinking and seeing that are truly initiatory. 

We emerge a different person than we were prior to having this book.

It is sometimes said that there are five essential stories that are told again and again. There is a reason why we so resonate with the hero’s journey, or with the overlooked and often humiliated child who is secretly the chosen one.

The myths of our reality connect us deeply to the longings of our soul. The secret desires and destinies that we all share; that which makes us human. To read them is to actively engage with an initiatory process that allows for us in some small way to become. 

These myths and stories are a bridge to a subconscious understanding of purpose and meaning on a soul-level, and of a reality that goes far beyond the limitations of mind, body, and spirit that we so often feel ourselves trapped within.

Books and stories allow for us to connect to the parts of ourselves that deeply feel, that are magical, special, and limitless. They shine a bright light on the possibility of self, and the divinity within us all.

When we are young we are so incredibly open. We go through a process of neurological pruning quite early on that establishes our baseline reality. As we get older we go to school and learn through our family and friends and establishments how we should think and what reality is.

Conforming means acceptance, which often means the spectacular play and whimsy and imaginations that we are so blessed with as children become disowned. We cut off our intuition, our knowing, our feeling, and our bodies. In doing so we cut off our aliveness.

Our brains are like road-maps. As children we delighted in finding a dirt road, a place off the map. As adults so often our minds close up as we take the same roads again and again. The other roads, the places off the map, become dark. We only know the route we take each day.

We can move through our lives on auto-pilot, taking the same roads again and again, forgetting what it truly means to be alive.

Our imaginations, our passions, our sense of play, our curiosity and our emotions all connect us to our soul. To open a book with soul reminds us of our own, and in that, we can reconnect again to that part of ourselves. 

We can be like children but as adults, a part of the world yet also understanding of the multidimensional aspect of reality. 

We can consider the vast possibility of it all, and in doing so, remember our own vastness. We can respark, re-engage, and allow that road-map to again be lit up with the curiosity of exploration and the freedom that the Other, the unknown, contains. 

Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual teacher and author. Her books include The Body Deva and The Shamanic Workbook 1