Two days ago, as book lovers and avid readers all over the world celebrated World Book Day (April 23), I was reminded of this poem by Emily Dickinson:

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human Soul.”

No Frigate Like a Book

I took part in an essay writing contest in my elementary school (I think this was in 5th or 6th grade), and I distinctly remember that the topic was the first line of this beautiful poem – “There is no Frigate like a Book.” I don’t have a copy of my essay. I don’t remember who won that contest. What I do remember is that poignant line of poetry that perfectly captures one of the powers of books and stories.

With thanks to my mother who is an avid reader and who encouraged me to read from as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved books. They are an accessible source of knowledge, entertainment and inspiration for anyone who can read.

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,…”

Before I traveled outside the Philippines (which happened when I was already an adult), I’ve “visited” sunny California thanks to the Sweet Valley High books. I’ve “time traveled and seen” 18th-century New Orleans with Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I’ve “walked” along the hot Sahara Desert thanks to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

Because of the (positive) influence of my husband and some friends in fairly recent years, I’ve discovered the joy of reading science fiction and fantasy. On many nights, I’ve found myself fighting to stay awake because I was lost in captivating fantasy worlds such as the virtual utopia called OASIS in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and the Detroit Free Zone (DFZ) of Rachel Aaron’s Nice Dragons Finish Last

“This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human Soul.”

Books do cost money, but nowhere nearly as much as paying for airfare, accommodations and pocket money. For as long as you know how to read and you have the desire to read, there are so many places you can visit and explore with the help of books. If only the Philippines had good (extensive and efficient) public libraries around the country, I can imagine how the lives of many of our country’s poor would be enriched.

When you can’t get on an actual frigate, books are your next best ride. And perhaps, sometimes, books are even a better way to explore and enjoy the many colorful worlds around you.