Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Books--the All Purpose Cure?

I had lunch the other day with a dear friend who happens to be a former bookseller. I've known her for years (I worked in her store, in fact), and while a love of books happens to be one of the many things we have in common, in recent years we haven't had much chance to simply sit and talk about books. This past Sunday we did, and it was wonderful.

Thinking about our far-ranging conversation on the drive home, I was struck by the fact that not only are we both book fiends (another way of saying bookaholic :-)), but we each maintain a sizable book stash. My TBR pile is more like a small mountain--in actuality it's an entire bookcase with side-by-side tall stacks piled along the entire top shelf--and the books there run the gamut of all types of romance, several types of mysteries and suspense, historical novels, some science fiction, nonfiction, history, travel, cooking, a bit of poetry and essays . . . I buy what interests me, even if I'm not planning to read it right away. There's a comfort level for me to have an assortment of choices, because I never know exactly what I might want to read next.

My friend's TBR pile is similar; maybe that's because her tastes are as eclectic as mine. I know we're both very curious people, but I think there's more to it than that. What I want to read at any given time is what I'm in the mood for--but why is that so varied? Why are there times I look at all those books and feel like I have nothing to read--and I need something right, right now?

Depending upon my mood, maybe I need something that only a certain type of book can provide.

I guess my TBR pile is like a medicine cabinet for my emotional well-being. Just as I wouldn't take Pepto Bismol for a headache, but would go straight for the ibuprofen (or, heaven forbid, my migraine meds), there are times when only a romantic comedy will satisfy my need for escapist fare. Perhaps if I'm working through something emotionally, that's why (though I'm not aware of it at the time) I'll go for a serious, emotionally charged historical romance.

Friends and family are wonderful, of course, and have certainly helped me when I've needed it, but let's face it--there are times you might not want to talk about something with anyone. Or if it's the middle of the night and something is on your mind, a book won't grumble about being taken off the shelf at 2 a.m. when you can't sleep! Books have been loyal companions all my life. Over the years there have been many times I've retreated into a book, then realized once I'd finished it that I knew the solution to a problem, or I felt better about whatever had been bothering me.

A prescription for whatever's ailing me, with virtually no side effects, no need for a doctor or an expensive insurance plan.

I knew there must be a reason for that giant book stash--it's therapeutic. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!


Cheryl Bolen said...

Oh, Sharon, I loved you post! So I'm not the only one who has to "mood read." Your 2bread pile sounds like my own personal mountain.

Since I try to be a full-time writer, I've gotten in the habit of not allowing myself to read for pleasure until the end of the evening. It's my reward.

But at this rate, I'll never widdle down the size of my pile. I'd love to have suggestions for how to actually work in time for more reading.

Trish Ryan said...

You're so right about the theraputic value of the 2B read pile! Honestly, I get a little panicked when the weekend comes and I don't have anything I'm excited to read in the house. Makes me realize the importance of stockpiling titles in a wide variety of genres to satisfy any mood (she says, justifying a book buying addiction worthy of a 12 Step program...)

Sharon Schulze said...

Re: suggestions for working in reading time--I wish I knew the answer to that myself. As it is, I find myself going through stages of reading in every free moment (i.e., while eating breakfast or lunch, or while cooking (!)), or if, God forbid, I start a book when I go to bed, I'm apt to stay up reading until I finish it; then I'm no good for much the next morning.

I'll go for a week or two without reading sometimes, then gorge on books!

Sharon Schulze said...

Trish, sounds like perfect justification to me! :-)