“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
~ James Baldwin
I love books (almost) more than anything in life—from a very young age, to this climbing-closer-to-forty of recent days, books have always been central to each breath I take.
I came by this love honestly—my parents both avid readers—and some of my favorite memories include weekend afternoons and evenings, each of us with a book nestled into our hands, happily settled into our own worlds, the quiet hum of companionship as the pages flip—and of course, our last-minute pre-Christmas trips to the bookstore.
We would each choose a (reasonable) pile of books, which we traded at the cash register, took home and wrapped for each other—and then eagerly awaited Christmas morning, when we would open our packages of joy, curling up after brunch, with full bellies, a glass of something bubbly and magic preparing to open before us.
Loving books as much as I do, I even spent a good portion of a past life making books. Each time I walk into our living room, I feel a graceful, grounding joy, as I look at our full bookshelves, busting with favorites, with books I have invested my heart and soul in, whether through the experience of reading them, or the through the experience of making them.
Each book, each story, has a place in my heart. Each book, each story, has helped me to find company, wisdom and the knowing that I am not alone in this world, no matter if I am up or if I am down.
Recently, so caught up in the busy, I noticed that I has having a difficult time keeping my attention in a book that I had started reading around the holidays. The days have been so long and so full, my body ready for sleep the moment before my head hit the pillow—I was lucky to get through one paragraph, let alone one page, of Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
And so, I made myself a promise—that this year, I would commit to reading one book a month.
Not two, not ten—just one. There would be no competition as the months passed to read more than the previous month—I could save that for next year, maybe—and I wouldn’t, as I had done in the past, rope my friend Rebekah into a reading competition with me (which we did for some time, fiercely maintaing a blog to talk about the books we read).
No. This year, one book a month.
A commitment to myself and my imagination. A way to honor myself—a way to strengthen my personal integrity.
One chilly late afternoon, my love and I trekked downtown, stopping in at the bookstore to use a gift card we received at Christmas, before going to see The Hobbit (which I still haven’t read).
That night, I began the first book and thanks to a teaching schedule that has me traveling around the city a ton, I found many more moments to dive into the book.
Two days later, I had finished racing in the rain and I was on to find the fault in my stars.
Next up was Wild, which I plowed through; returning to Ms. Winterson, promptly polishing that off and then proceeded onto The Marriage Plot, which due to some much needed rest as prescribed by the universe, I finished reading in two days.
And today, the beginning of a new month, I will start The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks.
I devoured five books in the span of four weeks—my brain, my imagination, had literally been starving—and as I continued to read, I could feel a part of myself come alive again.
The me that believes—in magic, in life—in the power of our imagination and our creativity—and the me that will worship and celebrate the beauty of the written word for the rest of my days.