I’ve been thinking a lot about reading experiences. And by that I mean reading a series, back to back to back, and getting so immersed that you forget to eat, clean, sleep, that you have kids. It’s kind of the best thing.
I remember it happening for me in my early twenties when my then boyfriend, Scott got me to read the Lord of the Rings – something I never would have thought I’d touch, let alone devour. We were living in Toronto and I read the first one before the first movie came out. I loved it, I think I’d also read The Hobbit when we went to the big theatre at Richmond and that was it, I was love. We came out of the theatre, went right in the Chapters that used to be beside it and immediately bought the other books and gobbled them up. I needed my own copies, not Scott’s old beaten up ones. I remember being on the last book and had a few hundred pages left one weekend when we went to visit Scott’s parents. You know you are going to one day have the best in-laws ever when they have no problem with you ignoring them and hiding in bed all weekend to read. Of course sharing the books with Scott and constantly updating him on ‘where I was’ made it all the more wonderful.
Fast forward to many years later – and I’m about to divulge a major, amazing secret! Scott and I are in Waterloo and our kids are 10 and 7. Our oldest gets sick, like hit by a truck with mental illness and life is completely turned upside down – within a day our lives are ‘before’ and ‘after’. There was no time to cry or dwell, just to act. Doctor after doctor, basically the most rudimentary form of survival. One night, he was sleeping somehow, and I was desperate for anything good, anything. I did a weird thing. I emailed the staff at Parnassus Books, the bookstore in Tennessee that Ann Patchett owns. I wrote that our family was in crisis and what books would they recommend. I don’t know why I did this. But within a day I got an email and the subject read FROM PATCHETT. Ann and I became email pen pals for the next seven months. She was beyond generous. She told me what to read and kept me going. She told me to read the Ferrante series and I did, running for weeks between my couch, my computer to write to her about them and Words Worth Books to buy the next book. I met Ann last in October 2019 after the release of The Dutch House and she barely remembered me, which was exactly how it should be. Our correspondence was absolute heaven during some of the worst months of my life – my grandfather also died during this time- and it was the best reading experience I’ve ever had and I’ll always be so thankful for her kindness.
And then there was Jo Walton! Scott and I read the Small Change series I think in the summer of 2019 and again, it was a series I hadn’t been expecting to love so much! We breezed through them in perfect hammock days. Sharing all of these books with someone makes it all the better.
Rory and I read the Lara Jean series by Jenny Han together a few years ago which led to watching the movies together on Netflix every year when they came out on Valentine’s day. Also perfect!
And that brings me to now and the Oxford Time Travelling Series by Connie Willis, an author Scott has read and loved for years. He figured I’d only read and enjoy To Say Nothing of the Dog but then I asked for The Doomsday Book for Christmas, tore through it and loved it even more and immediately got the last two, Black Out and All Clear from the library and spent all of January (which has been a really hard month for me) reading them. I finished the last one Saturday night and Scott and I stayed up late gushing over them and it was amazing. Best Christmas present for sure.
Reading does it again, gets me through, keeps me going, makes everything so very good, especially when I get to share it with someone amazing.