A few days ago I finished a fantastic book (Under The Dome by Stephen King) and I’m still feeling a little lost. See, when I read a really good book, I kind of escape from real life and into that book so when it ends I have a “what now” kind of feeling. Like what do I read now? Or what could possibly compare to THAT? And what am I going to spend my time on NOW? I usually try to pick up another book right away and delve into a new story, but I often end up starting an average of 4 of 5 books before finding the one my brain wants to stick with.
When times are really tough, I often read so fast that I don’t remember what I’ve read when I’m finished and have to read entire books again. That’s what happened with the Harry Potter series. When the 3rd book was published I was in a very dark place mentally and emotionally so I escaped into the story. At work I’d think about the story and what might happen. At lunch I’d sit out in my car or go to a nearby park and read until I reluctantly went back to work. And then I’d think about the story and imagine it in my head until work was over. I basically devour books like a hungry animal so the words are not absorbed and I have to read it a second time to fully absorb and understand what I read the first time. I do it to escape into a world other than the one I’m in.
Both of my parents are big readers so I come by the love of books honestly. But I think the escapism into books is a result of not feeling well when I was a child. I wasn’t a sick kid, but the years between 6th & 7th grades, I just didn’t feel myself for some reason. I had a lot of anxiety about being in school and about leaving home. Now that I’m older, I blame it on hormones. I truly think a lot of things happen because of hormones but during that period of time, I really think it was due to whatever changes my body was going thru screwing with my head.
I remember one night in 6th grade when I was supposed to attend a play with my family but I just didn’t want to go. I wasn’t sick, but had some sort of anxiety about leaving home so my parents didn’t push it. They had my gramma stay with my that night to keep an eye on me in case there really was something wrong.
I’m not sure who gave me the book Island of the Blue Dolphins, but I read it that night and it took my mind off of whatever was going on inside of it. I still have that original copy (and several other editions) and read it at least once a year, whenever I’m not feeling myself. I think this particular book speaks to me because it’s about a young girl, not much older that I was when I first read it, who is left alone on an island and has to take care of herself. It’s a story of strength and determination, of surviving on your own, of beating odds that are stacked up pretty high. It still cracks me up to see that I wrote “hi” at the beginning of each chapter, with a circle or a heart dotting the i. In a few places I wrote “I love Gramma” and that always touches my heart when I see it and I stop to remember my dear gramma who I miss so dearly. When we moved to San Diego I thought about contacting the author to thank him for writing this wonderful book that touched my life (he lived in San Diego for most of his life), but when I looked him up I found that he had died many years ago.
When I begin reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, I’m transported mentally to my parents’ burgundy sofa in the living room of the only house I really remember. We moved there when I was 5 so my memories of our old house are very few. The house on Seventh Street always was, still is, and will always be home to me. So after my mind goes to that comfortable place, it escapes into the story completely.
So yeah, I think the book escapism is certainly one of my methods for coping with life’s downs. My mom, who is a librarian and also obviously loves books, finds it too mentally taxing to read anything when she’s stressed. We are very much alike in many ways, but that’s one in which we’re not. I wish she could find her escape in books so she didn’t get so stressed out about my dad, brother, nephew, everything. I’m so glad that I introduced her to geocaching as that’s the obsession that keeps her mind going and gets her thru the stressful times. But that’s another blog for another day.
Back to books…
So I recently finished Under The Dome and I’m having a hard time even looking at another book. I want to read something new, to dive into a new story and new characters but that one still has its hold on my brain and my heart. This is going to sound really strange to some of you, but books are like friends to me. Like lovers. My favorite books are to me what Sweeney Todd’s razors were to him. If the story is really good, I lay in bed at night and think about it, think about the characters, the story, what the next book in the series will be like. What other books are out there to be read and escaped into.
Which is why I hold onto certain books. I know people who keep all of their books, regardless of whether they are favorites or not. I don’t have the space for that so I get rid of most books right after I read them. But there are other books that I know I will read again, that I enjoyed so immensely that my heart cannot bear to give them away. The Outlander and Harry Potter series. Eat, Pray, Love. The Tim Sanders, Suze Orman, and Mary Higgins Clark books signed and addressed to me by the authors. The ones that really speak to me, that really get under my skin and cannot be separated from.
I’ve always wanted a barrister’s bookcase to store and display these favorite books, like pieces in a museum. A few years ago the neighbor who lived next to us on Seventh Street, Clyde, died and he left his antique barrister’s bookcase to me. It’s in my bedroom now, and all my favorite books are displayed there with some favorite photos and mementos. It makes me happy to see my favorite things there behind the glass before I close my eyes at night and first thing each morning. My Harry Potters, my Outlanders, my high school yearbooks, the dictionary I won at the spelling bee, and many others. I love the squeak of the glass doors as I lift them to reach inside and retrieve one of my beloved books.