I don’t really remember when I started reading. I have always loved books. In large part I have my mother to thank for this. We discussed many books while I was growing up, creating a tiny little book group all our own.
Book stores and libraries have always felt magical to me. These are places you go and spend hours and hours walking through the isles. I’ve got an adorable anecdote to this that I’ve been told countless times though I don’t remember it.
My Mom most likely had a bunch of running around to do and during this she took me to a toy store. It was nice – I don’t dislike toy stores, but I get bored quickly. I’m not sure why she needed to stop by a book store, but upon stepping through the doors my eyes got really big. “Why didn’t we come here first?”
Reading isn’t just a hobby for me. When I struggled to make friends in school – I had the characters in my books. When I battled my inner demons, I read about characters battling real monsters. When my mental health began to become more and more of an issue – I held onto books like an anchor. Psychiatric units in hospitals don’t have much in the way of activities, but they almost always at least have books.
Every single thing I’ve ever struggled with I’ve found a book to help me process it – to help me figure it out. Self harm, an eating disorder, low self esteem, questioning my sexuality… the books didn’t solve my problems, they did something even better. If someone, somewhere out there is writing about this, I’m not alone.
I can’t even count the number of nights I held on with stuffed animals, snacks, and a pile of books. Sometimes books have been my only escape. I can’t imagine not reading, not hoarding books like they are oxygen, not forgetting that characters in fiction are not “real” people.
In elementary school I spend through The Babysitters Club books and lived through them. I read books like The Giver and felt less alone when I didn’t fit in while everyone else did. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird made me see very real issues in a completely new light. I challenged myself and took great pride in reading bricks like Roots in sixth grade. Later in high school I devoured books that had holocaust themes. I began reading books with strong leaders fighting against monsters and evil much larger than themselves like Harry Potter by J.K Rowling and The Stand by Stephen King.
Then when I got married my husband at the time didn’t approve of my reading choices. I began restricting what I read. I felt lost and alone. I spiraled out of control in almost every way possible. I was sitting in a psychiatric hospital when I began reading again. I’m not even sure what the book was – but it was the break from reality I needed. I left my husband, something I’d been terrified to do. It wasn’t one author, and it wasn’t ever one book. It’s all the books from The Baby Sitters Club, to Harry Potter, Watership Down, Enders Game, and yes – even Twilight. Books saved my life.
What do books do in your life? Be it a hobby, career, passion, or life sustaining need – books can fit many needs. What needs are they meeting for you? If books aren’t a big part of your life, what do you think keeps you from enjoying them more?