This post is a little bit different for me, which is why I’m posting it separately from the usual Friday book review. I feel like it’s time to get a little bit personal.
I really know very few people in my personal life that read. Not those who are often too busy to read as much as they would like, but those who actively dislike reading. They do not understand at all how I can spend the money I do on books and how I can want to spend so much time on them.
I find this painful. I don’t understand how they simply don’t read when books are like air to me: a necessity for my very existence. To simply not read is completely unfathomable for me.
I couldn’t say exactly what triggered this love of a lifetime for me. It’s possible that it was my mother forcing books on us while we were in the tub (a captive audience that couldn’t run away). I do know that at least a few of these books have made their way into my favorites, even now. Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner are the two I remember the most and are still just a complete comfort to me. She was the one who insisted I read Harry Potter when I dismissed it as a silly book for children. Whew. Was I wrong about that one.
I remember discovering my aunt’s old Nancy Drew books in the closet at my grandmother’s house. Today, I have a fairly impressive collection of Nancy Drew myself, including an almost complete set of the original 1930s books.
I’ve loved ghost stories since I was little. I sought out ghost story books at the library and in books stores. I was lucky to be a kid during the height of the Goosebumps craze. Now, I own a large, but my no means complete, R.L. Stine collection.
I recall devouring books on the Ancient Egyptians and mummies in third grade (another love I’ve had most of my life) and picking up adult novels by fourth grade or so. I always eagerly picked out a ridiculous number of books in the Scholastic book order pamphlets and at the book fairs. I was lucky to have parents who did not stifle my deep affection for books. I certainly wasn’t given all the books I wanted, but I can’t remember the reading ever being discouraged, and I was certainly indulged a fair amount.
I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t love to read, but I don’t remember it. I can’t even imagine it.
So basically, here is what I’m building to: I have anxiety. I have had it in varying degrees since I was a kid. I’ve been medicated for it, but I don’t like the side effects and these days I try to do without it as much as I can stand. If you’ve never had it, for one, lucky you, but for two, it’s very hard to explain. For me, it’s a tightness in my chest that won’t go away, I obsess over things completely out of my control, I don’t go places and do things because it’s nothing but constant worry. I can’t sleep because my brain won’t stop. My jaw hurts and I have headaches because I can’t stop clenching my teeth. And the worry. Just constant worrying over EVERYTHING in my life. When it’s at it’s worst, the anxiety owns me. I’m certain that it makes me very hard to live with.
But, when I read, I can make all of that seem peripheral for a little while. Reading makes it possible for me to be unmedicated and still function. It’s an escape. I can live in a different world and be someone else. When my reality gets bad I can read an entire series in no time at all.
I wish I could share that feeling with all the people I know who say they hate to read. When I read a really good book it is an unbelievably comforting, satisfying feeling.
It is probably a little dramatic to say that reading has saved my life, but I don’t know who I would be or what kind of shape I would be in mentally without it. Sometimes, just knowing I can read at the end of the day is the only thing that gets me through things. I have overflowing bookshelves and no space, and they are a HUGE pain to have to move, but I wouldn’t give up my collection for about anything. I’m very lucky to live with someone who doesn’t mind that I fill every available space with books (although I have been assured that should we ever move, I’m responsible for moving all of them, unassisted).
I’ve always wanted to be a writer myself. So far, I haven’t been able to make that happen. It may never happen for me, but I’ll keep trying. Someday, I would like to know that words that I have written have helped someone else in a situation similar to mine. In the meantime, this blog is the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s completely wonderful to be able to look at reading books as a job. I might never make any money doing this, but I can’t see myself stopping. I’ve had another blog before, but didn’t stick with it. It turned into work in the most pejorative sense. This blog I CANNOT WAIT to write each week. That’s job satisfaction I certainly cannot claim from my 9-5.
To those who write: what you’re doing matters so much. I would not be the person I am without you. Or my mom… who forced me to listen to all those books when I didn’t want to appreciate them. I certainly appreciate it now. And most profound thanks to a lifetime of patient and helpful librarians, and family and friends who understand when I say I want books, I really mean it.