The knowledge that a book imparts, no matter the subject, is invaluable. But it is a book's tactile ability to connect the reader to the crisp feel of a book's page, the paper-ink, clean scent of its pages, and the crunchy sound of its binding--in addition to its intellectual subject matter--creates an otherworldly, deeply personal experience. What someone takes away from a book may differ, but the overall feel of a book connects the literate world, absolving incongruent linguistic barriers and class structures. A great book will always be there, if you decide to keep it, to reflect on, ruminate over, and connect deeply with on a personal level. A great book will also inspire you to great heights.
My subject matter of choice is literary fiction, and my favorite novelist is Charlotte Bronte, a 19th century, Victorian gem. Her novels, Jane Eyre (my favorite novel) and Villette (which I have just finished reading), explore the internal self (thank you to Tony Tanner for pointing this out in his introduction to Villette) as well as the self in relation to societal constraints and the opposite sex. The sanctity of Jane Eyre is in its feminist perspective, without directly stating it, as Jane does what is right by her and not by societal standards.
Villette, which I have deep respect and regard for as Bronte's seminal work, explores the complex fragility of the human spirit amidst adversity. This novel explores the emotional state of its main character, Lucy Snowe, the anguish, the depression, and the nervousness, without reverting to the commonly-held, medical knowledge of time, which describes these emotions as a neurosis that can be "fixed" by more time spent outdoors. Lucy remains true to herself, to her reclusive nature compounded by life's lot. Her detachment from the other characters in the novel explores the life of not only a depressive state, but where she stands in society. However, her regard for a fellow teacher brings out the complexity of her personality, the fire within. Villette reminds the reader that life--in all its emotional glory and repose--comprises a varying array of perspectives, not all good nor bad.
Which is why I love books...their highly interpretive nature, whose seemingly non-ambiguous words can change in meaning for its readers over time, depending on where the reader is, emotionally and physically, in a particular place and time. The sensory capabilities of a book (its feel, its emotional draw, its intellectual demeanor, etc.) not only transports the reader to another place and time--a book can make you feel in ways you never knew you would by just readings words on a page. The sum of their parts awakens the soul to feel through a visual exploration of words, which when separated, mean little.