Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Books are My Drug of Choice, Part 1: Escapism

Perhaps I ought to amend my goal to blogging once a week. Eh, heh.

I recently reported on a book binge, which I said I was coming off of. Not entirely accurate. In the spirit of confession (not that I'm repenting!), a brief case history of my particular disease:

 When I've had a bad day, or a bad week, when I'm feeling particularly down on myself, when I have something unpleasant to do that I just can't bring myself to deal with, when other people might head to the bar to get some temporary forgetfulness, I go to the library.

I don't drink, so I can't authoritatively compare the oblivion of a book to that of the bottle, but I submit that there are similarities. (I even get book hangovers from staying up far too late reading!) I am able to submerse myself so effectively in the alternate reality of a novel that if I am interrupted (and you have to be loud and insistent if you want to get my attention) it takes me a few seconds to remember where and who I am. I substitute the emotions of the characters for my own emotions, take on their problems instead of my own problems, and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment when they succeed. (Do you get that feeling from alcohol?)

Unfortunately, I read very quickly, so the story ends and I've only escaped my own misery for a few hours. And after the satisfying conclusion to the fictional characters' adversity, my unsolved problems seem even more onerous and unsolvable. So I pick up another book. Not to read it, of course, since I've already wasted more time than I should. I just want to look at the cover and feel the heft of the pages. I might read the front flap, just to get an idea of what it might be about. And maybe the first page, to see if the writing is any good. Two hours later, I emerge blinking dazedly from another universe to find that my problems are two hours further from being solved, and now it's dinnertime and there's no food in the house, and I haven't even showered yet today, and the kids are late for music lessons. The kids (and the husband) are also miffed at having been completely ignored for hours on end. (I was once reading a book while my two-year-old played with blocks, and he got so frustrated with my inattention that he dumped the entire container of blocks over my head.) But I don't really want to deal with their unhappiness, so I reach for another book . . .

Books may be safer than alcohol as a means of escape, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that books are addictive and a book addiction leads to damaged relationships and destructive behaviour!

Sigh. Here are some books I've used lately to avoid talking to my family (yes, I've read all these since the last long list of books, and no, this isn't all I've read, it's just the ones I'd recommend):

Dealing With Dragons and Searching for Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede: first two books of the Enchanted Forest series, lighthearted plays on fairy-tale conventions. Good fun. Also her Mairelon the Magician, a magical Victorian comedy of errors.
Wake and Fade, Lisa McMann: I need to get the third book; these are page-turners with supernatural crime solving and romance.
Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta: dark, epic fantasy about refugees from a cursed kingdom. Should have been a trilogy but she packs it all into one book. Original story, great world-building, intense characters.
Tomorrow, When the War Began, John Marsden: post-apocolyptic adventure set in Australia, first of a series. Exciting, realistic adventure.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Maryrose Wood: this one's worth a blog post.


  1. Here, here! I posted something very similar about a year ago-- I'd link you to it, but that would cut into my reading time.

  2. Hey, it's always nice to know I'm not the only diseased one out there!