There’s a quote often attributed to Ernest Hemingway that I love: “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” Indeed, books are loyal friends and, when times get really tough, I turn to them sometimes more than people.
Throughout my life, I’ve found comfort and solace in books and words. Growing up, I was more into sports, video games, and reading the newspaper (as funny as that sounds). My father thoroughly read the Philly papers every day, especially the sports section, and I did the same thing to imitate him. It’s a big reason I became a writer and studied journalism.
As I got older, I turned to novels. My interest in sports and journalism faded, and I began to love getting lost in novels. In college, I was devouring books not just for my courses, but other novels and books on almost any subject I could think of. It was a thirst for knowledge.
It wasn’t until after college, though, that I felt the power of fiction first hit me. I remember being on vacation in Florida and reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. As I was reading, I felt like I was there in the 1930s with the Joad family. I immediately texted a friend and let her know. She didn’t quite understand what I was saying, but perhaps I didn’t explain it that well.
I guess this can sound corny – something like a P.S.A. for reading or something from Reading Rainbow. But I feel like books, and especially fiction, is extremely powerful. Reading fiction is like stepping inside an author’s mind, seeing the world through his or her eyes. I feel it makes me more empathetic and keeps my skills sharp as a writer.
Being a bookworm
After my dad died in 2018, I could barely function – but I didn’t stop reading. In fact, in 2018 and 2019, it felt like all I did was read. I kept track of it on Goodreads and I read more than seventy books in 2019!
I read all types of books: ones on self-help, spirituality, and many, many novels. I read some of the classics and a lot of books that challenged me. I read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Those were two of my favorites.
I was depressed and afraid to leave the house. I felt beaten and broken. Books were my escape and, perhaps, they kept me alive. Instead of turning to drugs and alcohol, I drown myself in words. Rachel would joke that I was addicted to books, and she’s probably right.
Lately, Rachel refers to my voracious reading habit as one of my “jobs.” In a way, it sort of is. As a writer, I feel compelled to read. I feel like reading improves my writing as much as actually writing does.
So, I love books. Some people think it’s dumb to “waste time” reading so much. I’ve had old-timers in recovery thumb their nose at me when I mentioned I was a bookworm. But I disagree.
While I’ve been striving for more balance in life, I cherish my reading time. To me, there’s almost no better feeling than getting lost in a novel. And when I’m really struggling, books are my most loyal friends.