Oh hi there. Remember me? I remember you. I come visit and lurk and read about what you’ve been reading. It’s good to see you.
Sometimes in my life I go for long, long periods of time without reading. I don’t like those times, which is why I wanted to do this project. A little ambition. A little accountability. In the past, my not-reading is usually because I get busy and lazy, and in the free time I have I don’t make reading a priority.
But it’s been weird these past few months, because I’ve really wanted to read. I’ve been reading a lot. A chapter here and there. Or holding a book in my lap and staring past it into the middle distance. Or carrying them in my bag everywhere I go where the only thing that absorbs them is the muscles in my neck and shoulder. But — and it’s a weird feeling and I don’t know how to explain it — it’s like my brain has been too full to fit anything else. Like the words bounce off my eyes because there are too many other words inside my head to fit anymore.
So here is what has taken over my brain. It’s personal, but hopefully tastefully so. I just want to share it here, I suppose. My parents got divorced this year after 38 years together. They separated one month and one day after my own wedding, and the divorce was filed the morning after my younger sister got engaged. When you’re little and your parents get divorced, people tell you that your parents love you so much and it’s not your fault. When you’re in your thirties and your parents get divorced, people tell you that you probably saw it coming though, right?
(Sidebar: I mentioned that to a mentor of mine and he looked me very kindly and earnestly in the eyes and said “Your parents love you so much. It’s not your fault.” and I cried into my coffee.)
And of course there are more terrible things that can happen. Everybody is alive. Everybody is still speaking. But it’s been a lot. And, honestly, it’s been a lot more emotionally challenging than I expected it to be. So I have been grateful for stories and for imaginative worlds to climb into, although those have largely taken the form of TV and movies of late.
Some things that have made it through my brain cloud have been:
- Cheryl Strayed’s tiny beautiful things, a collection of advice columns from her Dear Sugar days. I love Cheryl Strayed, and this book was a perfect nightstand treat. Easy to read in small pieces or long meditative chunks.
- The BFG for the seven millionth time because Roald Dahl serves the function in my life that the Little House series serves in Jackie’s.
- One whose title is lost to my brain that was a sort of self-help book for adults whose parents are getting divorced. My husband ordered it for me and I plowed through it on his kindle. It was like reading somebody’s terrible journal, but it was quite literally the only available, still-in-print book of its kind that we could find. It did provide me with a bit of kinship.
- Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, the perfect primer to my first foray into graphic novels, immediately followed by Alison Bechdel's utterly stunning and perfect Fun Home.
- All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which was like a beautiful beacon of light. I can only describe my experience like this: Marie-Laure’s father makes her a puzzle box every year for her birthday - a contraption with secret keyholes and twists and invisible seams. In one scene, Marie-Laure solves the puzzle box and finds two chocolates inside. She pops both of them unceremoniously in her mouth at once. Reading the book was like opening one of Marie-Laure’s father’s puzzle boxes. It felt as though it had been lovingly crafted as a gift just for me. And the chocolate inside is delicious, but almost irrelevant compared to the box itself. It is the box that should be savored; the chocolate can be eaten two at once, ravenously. I read 530 pages in three days, which is probably the same amount that I’ve read the whole rest of the year combined. It was the best feeling.
I need some new recommendations now. Books that are lyrical and lovely, literarily satisfying but not intellectually dense. Books that are good company. Share away - I value your expertise!