My love affair with books began well before I was old enough to feel even the most remote attraction to another human being. Boys were loud and obnoxious, and generally they had a strange smell. I wasn’t interested.
But take me to the little carousel library in town, and I could get lost in there for hours. I remember sitting cross-legged, perusing the kids’ section. Beverly Clearly, Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, they were my happy. This was before I discovered Blume’s novel Forever, mistakenly shelved between Freckle Juice and Fudge-a-Mania. At the age of nine, I will never forget reading this young adult novel, recounting a very detailed sexual experience. At nine! Why the librarian allowed me to check that book out, I’ll never understand, and how my mom never caught the error is beyond me. But I read it, front to back, multiple times.
The little pamphlet my mother had given me on menstrual cycles and pregnancy were no longer necessary.
The name Ralph was forever lost as an option for one of my future children.
And my taste in books took an abrupt change. The kids’ section was no longer appealing; I figured after having read Forever, I had informally graduated to the rows and rows of adult choices.
Truly, I’d been exposed to some of the most vulgar literature of all time long before this. I just couldn’t comprehend it at the age of three. With my head on my great-grandmother’s lap, I’d fall asleep to the lyrical words of Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth as she ran her fingers rhythmically through my hair. I still have those little books, and I marvel that I never once complained about her reading choices. I just loved the sound of her voice; it didn’t matter what words were raining down on me.
Books provided hours of entertainment in a world with very few toys and none of the electronic distractions of today. Every other week, my mother took us to the local library, and I painstaking selected my seven books, which would be returned within two weeks. Often, the two of us finished all of our selections before the due date.
We had very few books of our own growing up, but my current home tells a very different story. There are books of every genre, every age level, old and new. Some are showcased in bookcases, segregated by color in pure trendy Pinterest fashion. Others are in my kids’ bookcases or haphazardly stacked around the house.
When I first got sick, I was too fatigued to read. Then my vision was unpredictable. When I finally could see again, focusing caused massive headaches or seizures. Eventually the brain fog set in, and I could read and reread the same lines and still not comprehend what I’d just read. I began to understand the struggles of many of my students. One December I read the same Christmas-themed magazine every single evening before bed. It was brand new to me each day. My husband eventually tired of me showing him the same cute ideas and articles and the magazine disappeared.
The more I felt like I was losing the gift of reading, the more obsessed with books I became. I was so sick I don’t remember much from this time period, but I know this….I bought A LOT of books. Contemporary ones, classics, nonfiction, self-help, spiritual, young adult lit, books on Lyme disease, essential oils, writing. It was as if the further my health took me from my favorite hobby, the more desperately I needed to surround myself in the safety of books.
It was a bizarre act of hope. I would get better at some point, darn it, and I would read each of those beautiful books. To give up my books meant to give up on me, on my health, on my fight.
Now, I’m thankful to be able to dive into those overflowing bookcases. I love the way a book feels, and I adore its smell. I like to annotate the text and dog-ear the pages. As a teacher, one of my favorite questions was, “Mrs. Whiston, do you have a good book for me to read?” Oh, the challenge! I adored being a book matchmaker.
A couple years ago, I created the Between the Covers Book Club. I chose two books each month and members met online to discuss these selections. We read some excellent novels and memoirs, but the difficulty was finding time to discuss them. As more and more members faded away, held hostage by the busyness of their lives, I stopped making recommendations.
I’m still an avid reader, whenever my brain allows it, and I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. In the last year, I’ve read or listened to over a hundred books. There is no greater escape than a great book, and since I do have to spend so much of my time resting to restore my health, I spend a lot of time under a blanket and between the covers of books.
See what I did there?
Chronic illness has made me a bit of a hermit. If it weren’t for my school-age daughters, I could probably survive in isolation. Just me and Amazon Prime. In the comfort of my home, without the headache and expense of travel, I have wondered the Highlands and learned of Scottish traditions. I’ve seen the hills of North Carolina as our country fought for its independence. I’ve fallen in love a dozen times and I’ve cried at least three dozen more. In a season of my life inundated with loss, I’ve found comfort, friendship and hope in the characters of these stories. Some fiction, some true. All a part of me now.
A good book can change us, and when that happens, we want to share it. It’s human nature to let others in on these moments, the epiphanies, the relationships we form with characters. It feels selfish to keep so many experiences to myself, which has prompted me to revamp Between the Covers.
I will be sharing reviews and recommendations here. Between the Covers will be a forum for me to say, “Hey, friend, check this one out!” The Facebook page will continue to be available for members to share their own literary experiences and to ask for suggestions. After all, I’m still a book matchmaker at heart.
Anyone who enjoys curling up with a good book is welcome to join this book club. Just go to the BtC Facebook page and JOIN. Simple. Share when you want or just enjoy others’ recommendations. Visit Between the Covers at A Broken Crayon to learn what the characters I’ve fall in love with (or occasionally love to hate) and the settings to which I’m escaping. There will be nonfiction recommendations, too. From memoirs to bible studies, young adult novels to historical romance, and murder mysteries to psychological thrillers, I have an insatiable appetite when it comes to reading.
I’m excited to share my most delicious experiences with you!
Keep coloring, my friends!