Do you ever finish reading a book and just hold it for a while because you’re not sure what to do with yourself now? The world you just immersed yourself in has ended and you’re not sure how to react? This happened to me last night as I finished my 51st book of the year (!!). I then Tweeted about this feeling (because I’m a millennial okkkkkk) followed by ‘books really have saved me from some dark places this year’.
And damn, I really feel that.
I remember so vividly being in the middle of the hardest week of my year – very very sad and completely alone, unable to see any of my friends and family but needing them more than ever, finding some solace in words on a page.
When I moved out of the flat I was living in at that time, it was a gradual process with a few trips back and forth, but in the first, I packed up half of my tiny little VW UP with my books. It was so weird that I just so strongly felt as though I couldn’t leave them behind.
When I was younger I remember my mum saying to me ‘you’ll never get bored because you like reading and there’s always books to read’ and whilst I don’t think we ever expected there to be a global pandemic and shoved in our homes for months on end, I do feel like there is some truth in this (also am very lucky to be privileged enough to always have access to books). So many people, myself included, spent many hours of lockdown reading. There’s some sort of collective feeling that books helped us, are still helping us, get through the pandemic slightly.
This year has taken so much away from us but it’s also given me a lot to be grateful for. It’s given me strength and resilience, a new perspective and fresh lease of life. To speak more literally, it’s also given me my very own bookclub, the opportunity to solidify so many friendships (in talking about books and other ways), and many, many great books.
Before Covid (I’d love if we all started referring to this as BC lol), I set up a bookclub at work and we only managed to meet up once at the bar before we got thrown into lockdown and the shit storm of 2020 began. And yet organising the bookclub, meeting new people and seeing familiar faces every month (even if it was just on Teams) to talk about books has brought me so much joy. Discussing the books we’ve all read and collectively deciding whether we loved or hated it (or completely disagree with each other!) has been so great and I’m so grateful for it.
A solid bookclub member and my work wife, Elle, has been an absolute rock for me this year and has supported me in countless ways and so much of our friendship is routed in reading. Right in the heart of the first lockdown we sent parcels of books to each other. We’ve spent countless hours on the phone to each other talking about books (and other shite.) And I think we’ve pretty much liked every single one of each other’s goodreads updates, so if that’s not real friendship I don’t know what is.
My lovely Josie sent me the most beautiful book ever for my birthday this year; The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy which can only be described as a book that can save your heart. I think its marketing copy is “a book of hope for uncertain times” and it really, really is. It’s almost like she knew that a month later I would need those words more than ever and at a time when I couldn’t actually see my best friend, I felt as though she was with me telling me everything would be ok every time I picked up that book.
Some of my other fab friends have leant me books, recommended books to me and asked for my recommendations. I’ve spent countless hours drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of day, literally just talking about books. My Dad and I have read countless of the same detective novels notably the Cara Hunter series and the Susie Steiner series and discussed them at length. I’ve even promised my brother to read a 1200 page long epic fantasy novel (!) just so he can chat to somebody about it.
I think, basically, what I’m trying to say here is that reading gave me solace in my loneliness but it also gave me friendships and company in so many ways this year. In a year where there’s been so much uncertainty, stress and sadness, there has always been books and I find so much comfort in that thought, and I hope you do too.
And to leave you with a quote that emulates what I really want to say here:
“When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.” – Jules Renard