I love it when I have a good book to read. And this month, I’ve had two. First, I was addicted to David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. And just yesterday I wound up Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. And I’m in literary heaven.
When I’m into a book, I’m totally into it. So the first thing I do when I get up in the morning is lock myself in the loo with it, then have breakfast poring over it, then hold on to it as I get into the car, starting to read as soon as the driver takes off towards my workplace. On my way home in the evening it’s the same story. I’m reading all through dinner, late night before the lights go off, and — in the case of Unbroken — I was reading it in the darkness while the kids slept, lit by a torch on my new phone, well into the wee hours of the morning.
What is it about a good book that keeps you hooked? No doubt it’s the story. I am not such a freak when it comes to self-help or spiritual books, though those also constitute a large part of my reading routine. I enjoy them but not to the extent that I am addicted day and night. It’s the ones with a gripping plot, feats of human endurance and strength, and impeccable, gifted writing that do the trick.
Books transport me to new worlds. My own life becomes distant, detached. Sometimes I’m totally disoriented, and if a daughter or parent calls out, I am slow to respond and recollect where I am. And this sensation — of being somewhere else — is somewhat heavenly. Your sleeping habits go for a toss, but it doesn’t harm you. On the contrary, the experience is therapeutic, healing and energizing.
When I was a kid, my mother reprimanded me about my total addiction to reading — she claimed I used reading as an escape option, that I was a coward unable to face reality and chose to drown myself in books instead, much like an alcoholic. For years, well into my twenties, I held on to her voice in my head whenever I was ‘into’ a book. My enjoyment was always coupled with a sense of guilt.
But this month, two good books in a row, I am finally able to shrug off the baggage. I am not an escapist. I am a traveller — who journeys across time and space; a sensualist — who enjoys the pleasures of the planet in her mind; a people lover — who thrives on meeting and understanding strangers from all over the world. I am a voyeur, epicurean, child. I am the complete anti-thesis of the escapist: I am not running away from the world. On the contrary, I’m saying, “Bring it on.”