This morning, as I lazed on the couch with my cup of tea, I was idly scrolling through Twitter when a tweet caught my eye. “It didn’t surprise me, when my parents were dying, that I couldn’t write. But it shocked me…that I couldn’t read.” It was a teaser with a link to a NY times column, and it was so unexpected, and so close to home.
Four years ago, I was working full-time as a retail manager, but I was also a bookaholic. I read as much as I could. I’d grown up with books, worked in my mother’s used-book store for years, even went to a seminar for antiquarian book dealers. And even though I was no longer in the business, I still loved books. All kinds of books. My parents and I shared a lot of authors, too, mostly mysteries/thrillers. We shared Ridley Pearson, Carol O’Connell, Philip Margolin, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, and so many more. I shared a lot of fiction with my mom: Maeve Binchy, Nancy Thayer, Elin Hilderbrand, Kristin Hannah.
Then, as many of you know, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. I still worked, but managed to get out to Arizona for a few visits. I remember one trip, on the way there, I read my first Lee Child book. Lee Child was my dad’s absolute favorite author, and he’d said this book was the best. I read it, and it was thrilling and gripping and tense, and I had a grand time talking to my dad about it when I got there.
My dad died in spring of 2012, and I stopped reading. For a very long time, I didn’t really read anything. I watched a lot of TV, I played stupid games on my phone. I learned to crochet a few months after my dad died, and that was my outlet. Then knitting. It was creative and soothing, and didn’t remind me of him at all.
Over time, I started picking up books again. My mom and I still share a fondness for fiction, and we swapped what we called “light, frothy books”. They were fun, didn’t require much thought, didn’t challenge me or push any of those grief buttons. I’m so glad I had you, Jane Green and Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella and Susan Wiggs, Debbie Macomber. I still love you, still read you all religiously.
I shared some YA books with my daughter. I’ve always loved YA books, and even though these were often darker subject matter, it was okay because it was different. Thank you, Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell, Laurie Halse Anderson, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins.
After a couple of years, I started reading heavier books again, ones that made me think and cry and feel extreme emotions, and it was good. And just the other day, the boy and I went to the library, and I came home with six books, and I plowed through five of them within a week. It felt marvelous to fall into books like that again, to get that feeling of utter escape, that feeling where you close the book and you’re still thinking about the characters hours later.
For so long, I wrapped myself in the soft cushion of yarn crafts, and it saved me. I still love it, still knit more than I read, probably. But I think I’m at a point where there’s more of a balance. I can be a knitter AND a reader. A yarnaholic AND a bookaholic.
But I still can’t read mysteries. Well, no. I take that back; I’ve read a few. Harlan Coben is still a favorite. But they’re few and far between. I’ve never read another Lee Child book. I have an O’Connell and two Fairsteins in my To-Be-Read stash, and I pick them up periodically, read the description, and put them back. They’re too dark. There’s too much pain and anger and ugliness in those worlds. And of course, they still remind me of my dad. I think I’ll get back to them, someday. Until then, there’s still a whole wide world of books to explore, and I’m so relieved that I could find my way back to it.