And I always will. I have never been able to resist getting lost in a good story. I remember the first time it happened: I was lying on my mother’s bed; I was warm though it was cold outside. The book was By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I got so caught up in the part where Laura and Lena ride the black ponies that I did not hear my mother call me for dinner. She got mad, and I got in trouble, but it was totally worth it. I loved that book, and when I found out there were more books in the series I was over the moon. I read them all, many times.
I still read voraciously, at least one book a week. It helps that I work in a bookstore; I am always discovering new and interesting books, so many that I couldn’t possibly read them all if I tried. I even keep a small journal of titles and authors that I intend to get around to reading, sometime.
I find very few people who love books as much as I do. I don’t just enjoy reading; I can’t actually imagine my life without books. Books are a huge part of who I am as a person. My love of reading is one of the principle things that made me who I am today.
Merging into a story became an important coping mechanism for me in my messy childhood. Then, reading became an integral part of my academic success in school (which I loved every day of, but that’s another post). I found that I enjoyed non-fiction as much as, if not more than, fiction, and they were in a dead heat for which would prove more useful in helping me form an adult identity. So for me, reading meant one thing: escape. With books, I could not only escape my present trouble, I could also project myself into and prepare for a better future.
Now, reading is fun and educational, and a primary source of emotional support, since every time I have a problem, I begin solving it by looking for a book. (And books have only let me down once, but that’s another post, too.) Some people turn to friends, some to family for help. Many good Christians pray, consult their Bible and their pastor when dealing with issues big and small. Me, I prefer the impartial mirror of the printed page.
Because I don’t agree with every book I read, that would make me delusional. No, the book is the jumping-off point for how I decide to see myself and my problems, and how I want to go about solving them. Not every book has an answer for me, but sometimes bad advice and bad examples can be just as useful as good advice and good examples. And sometimes, one shinning nugget of truth is all I need to capture from a sea of wordy dross.
Unfortunately, Christianity has a deep-seated antipathy towards intellectualism of any kind (Galileo, anyone?), and I hear the voices of my Fundamentalist childhood warn me against the dangers of books, where can be found: Atheism, Evolution, and Harry Potter. They are far too late on all three counts.
More moderate perspectives might question my emotional and relational health, wondering if I am turning to books because I lack other resources. And they might have a point; introversion does make me turtle when I should reach out, and we should be careful what we allow to influence our sense of self.
The one answer I have for all of them is simply this blog. The novel A Widow for One Year by John Irving made me want to be a writer (“Tom woke up, but Tim did not.”), and this blog is the first tangible result of that desire. This blog is confessional, drawing people into my otherwise private thought world. This blog is spiritual, writing it is not only the manifestation of years of my spiritual growth; it is also a continuing source of fuel for further growth, both for me and others. And this blog is just one more example of how books and the written word in general, are still simultaneously comforting me and pushing me toward more good things I will do in my future.