There’s this thing I do when I’m sad. Not devastated crying my eyes out sad, just low level sad/bored/down where I feel annoyed, or anxious, or like I need something, some fix, a change. Something that’s a little bit more than what I have. Something else. Because I’m happy, generally I’m happy, and aware of the fact that I’m lucky, but sometimes I need a perk. And this is going to sound so strange (unless you’re like me, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about), and I have different types of high: the shopping spree, the new stationary, the new haircut. But the absolute favourite?
For instance, since moving into my new apartment, I’ve felt just the tiniest bit lonely. I’ve been in near constant company for the past six months, so it’s been a bit of a change to have things be so suddenly quiet. You really miss that buzz of other people when it’s gone.
I knew this would happen of course. I was prepared. I re-read Marian Keyes’ ‘Sushi for Beginners’. Because it’s what I read when I’m going through a change. It’s comforting and the main protagonist lives alone, and I remember reading it in University and thinking how wonderful it would be when I finally lived on my own. It’s also a lovely, funny read and will be closely followed by ‘Rachel’s Holiday’. Another University read, hilariously funny and a little bit dark.
I have different types of re-read, books I come back to at certain times of year, or at different moods.
In the summers, the ones where I want something familiar and engrossing and likely to make me cry, I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Purely because, aside from being amazing and thought provoking and an all round terrific piece of prose, I read it as a teenager after a breakup and it distracted me so completely that I didn’t think of that boy at all once I started reading it. Also, does anyone else think Atticus Finch is the perfect guy? He’s crazy smart, stands up for what he believes in and keeps his cool in every situation. Bunch of guys decide to beat up his client in the middle of the night? No problem. He’ll sit beside the prison and confront them. I’m both really excited and really worried that there’s a sequel coming out. Excited because I want to go back to that world and those characters, worried because of all the controversy surrounding it.
When I want to laugh (and maybe think a little as well) I read Terry Pratchett, because he was a bloody hilarious writer. One of the few that actually make laugh out loud. A lot of people might discount his Discworld books as fantasy: and they are fantasy, but they’re also comedy gold and cleverly written reflections of the real world to boot.
Christmas always means Philip Pullman’s ‘The Amber Spyglass’ or Terry Pratchett’s ‘Hogfather’ for me. I remember reading ‘The Amber Spyglass’ on Christmas Eve as a teenager. And ‘Hogfather’ is Pratchett’s take on Christmas, gods and hangovers. I try to read at least one of these books during the Christmas season.
When I wish there’s more to the world I read Neil Gaiman. Anything by Neil Gaiman, ‘Neverwhere’, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, ‘Fragile Things’, they’re all like little pinches of magic in the everyday. Peter S. Beagle and Charles de Lint are close seconds.
I like anything by Margaret Atwood when I want to read something big or slightly feminist. ‘The Penelopiad’, ‘The Blind Assassin’, ‘Oryx and Crake’. I read all three of those during two lazy weeks in Florence (mostly in the airport mind, I was too busy drinking wine, eating all the food and seeing all the art when I was actually in Florence).
Reading ‘Harry Potter’ instantly transports me to July, the feeling of summer as a teenager, the anticipation of waiting for a new HP book.
Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ takes me back to being seventeen and in Donegal, in the summer where I first read it. The beach, and staying in a house with no WiFi and no tv: so we read, and talked and had barbecues (weather permitting, it is Ireland after all).
Wait till Helen Comes was the first ghost story I loved, and whenever I smell honeysuckle I think of that book, and the authors use of it in the narrative.
Douglas Adams is the library at my secondary school and the librarian’s love of him.
Diana Wynne Jones is the library I went to every Saturday when I was little. Back before I had a list of favourite authors or genres I looked out for, and instead just browsed the shelves, read blurbs, sampled everything. And after a while I realised I kept picking up and liking these Diana Wynne Jones books, and I had my first favourite author. I didn’t realise how important that was at the time.
There’s just something about immersing yourself completely in another world. Escaping from reality for a while and viewing reality differently when you come back because of what you’ve read. I love that feeling. I love discovering anew book and rediscovering old favourites. I love that I have books. For me, they were a lifeline during the difficult teenage years, a comfort when I’m sad, the perfect way to fall asleep (or stay up all night reading, totally engrossed). I can’t think of anything that makes me feel happier than settling in for a good long read.
Anyone who’s a reader will know where I’m coming from with this. But what about everyone else? What do you do when you’re sad, or in need of a pick me up?