If there's one coping mechanism that was taught to me early in life it was this: when things are rocky, read a book. Losing oneself in the world of a good book is a singular pleasure that no other experience can really duplicate. I get to travel all over the world, learn about other cultures, experience intrigue, magic, romance, new ideas, mysticism, political machinations, religious controversies -- in short, almost everything that makes life interesting.
I'm not knocking personal experience. No book or photo or collection of words will ever really come close to what it feels like to actually be in a Russian forest or floating on the ocean, or tasting hot fresh brioche in France. I have had all those experiences and they were all magical. They are all imprinted indelibly in my memory. I treasure thousands of memories like that.
However, books expand my world much more.
Early on, my parents read to me. My father used to read to me from the Wall Street Journal to put me to sleep when I was a baby. It still puts me to sleep.
Some of my happiest memories are of sitting in a big easy chair on my grandfather's lap while he read to me from his favorite books, Stories from the Bible, Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.
My family never took a vacation that we didn't all have to make sure our books were in the car, because reading was a big part of every vacation. Sitting on the beach or on a balcony overlooking the beach, or by the pool -- heavenly. My idea of a perfect day, reading and relaxing.
I am pretty much confined to my little corner of Atlanta right now because I care for my mom -- cooking her meals, helping her dress, bathe, etc. -- and that's OK. I'm not complaining. I don't want to get on a plane and fly anywhere. I don't really even want to drive downtown. The older I get the more I despise being in crowds of people, or around a lot of noise, or anywhere not close to a clean bathroom or water source.
Books get me out and about, though. In a way, books are a godsend. They don't just get me out of my own head and away from my own worries, they soothe me, educate me, and provoke feelings.
Mother reads voraciously. She reads 3-5 books a week. Keeping her in books is a challenge, although the fact that she will use a Kindle really helps. Lots of times I will read a book and then pass it to her, or vice versa, although we don't always like the same books. She likes little murder mysteries and I don't, for instance. One author we both love is Donna Leon who writes a series of murder mysteries set in Venice. I've never been there but Mother has; I now feel like I know Venice a lot, however, based on the Guido Brunetti books.
Donna Ball is another author we both like, particularly her Ladybug Farm series. She lives in Georgia, which shouldn't make any difference but it does; it's fun to read an author who has lived some of the same places and seen some of the same sights as we have.
I recently finished a series of books by author Deborah Harkness, the All Souls Trilogy. I am not a huge fantasy fan, but I decided to try the series because I read an interview with author Jodi Picoult and she said she was reading the final book in the trilogy and enjoying it. So I bought a very used copy of the first book, A Discovery of Witches and within a few pages I was hooked. I have now read all three books in the trilogy and can't wait for her to write more.
Picoult wrote a book I finished recently, Sing You Home, and I loved that book. It was only the second book I've ever read by her, and I can't recall the title of the first one. It was a singular experience, though.
Another author I love is Karen White. I first read her Tradd Street series and loved those books, and most recently I finished A Long Time Gone. It was so good I rationed out my reading time, only letting myself read a chapter after I had finished chores like unloading the dishwasher and taking out the trash.
I am working from home at the moment, doing online grading for a company that does educational testing. One great thing about it is that even though I only take 30 minutes for lunch it's enough time to read a bit while I eat, which breaks up the day very nicely.
If you're going through a rough patch in life, reading is a way to get through it. Read for pleasure, for adventure, for escape. You don't have to read non-fiction but if that's fun for you, go for it. Just read.
one of the half dozen bookcases in my house...