Monday, March 12, 2012

Fictional Healing (The Happiness Challenge Day 12)

Reading is my favorite medicine.

When I was in elementary and middle school, whenever I stayed home from school with a cold or a stomachache, I would reread one of my favorite paperbacks.

I'm pretty certain I ordered them all on the Scholastic order form at school. The days the book orders came in were my favorite days.

There were three books that I read more times than I can count.

They were:

The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
The Ghost of the Isherwoods by Carol Beach York

They now look like this: 

The Girl with the Silver Eyes has completely fallen apart. Kate tried to tape it back together after she read it a couple of years ago, but its days of being shared are over. I can't bring myself to throw it out, though. Not yet. 

The Girl with the Silver Eyes is about a young girl named Katie Welker. Because of her unusual silver eyes and the weird things that happen when she's around, people think she's strange. Katie can move things by thinking about them. As a girl who hated putting away clean clothes, I loved this idea. (As a grown woman who hates putting away clean clothes, I still do.) Katie just wants to find other kids who are like her. Aren't we all looking for that? 

The Ghost of the Isherwoods is about a girl named Louise who attends a family reunion and is drawn into the mystery of the woman who once lived in the house where Louise is staying. It's only 140 pages and I could finish it in a couple of hours while lying in my yellow bedroom in the house on Steere Drive. I was always thrilled by the ghostly happenings and by Louise's painful crush on her brother's friend, Ritchie Allen. Louise, like Katie, felt like an outsider, too. She felt like she was too immature and not pretty enough to draw the attention of the boy she liked. Hello, who can't relate to that (even 30 years later)?

Up a Road Slowly was, hands-down, my favorite. I checked it out of the Shreve Memorial Library in downtown Shreveport once every few months before I bought my own copy. I remember what the cover looked like. I found an image of it online. Just looking at it takes me back to all those days I spent reading it. 

The book is about Julie. Her mother dies and she goes to live with her Aunt Cordelia. Her alcoholic Uncle Haskell lives in the carriage house out back. The book follows Julie through the pain of first love, the death of a schoolmate, and her dreams of being a writer. 

I think I might need to read it again. Luckily, despite its yellowed pages, it's still in relatively good shape and could probably handle another lazy afternoon of turning pages. 

I am by no means a hoarder. I love throwing away, well, pretty much everything. When my kids visit their grandparents in the summer, I clean out their rooms and laugh my evil laugh as I toss out bags and bags of junk. When the kids come back, they never even notice what's missing. Man, it feels good to clean house.
"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." ~Anna Quindlen

But, when it comes to books, I like to stack them high on my shelves.

I remember well my mother going to her bookshelves and pulling off books I might like to read. She would scan the titles, running her finger along the spines, until she landed on the right one. "Here, this one. You'll like this." And I always would.

I wanted to be able to do the same thing for my children and for my friends and family. I love loaning out my books. I am careful with my books- I rarely crack the spine - but I have no problem with friends who read books like they are conquering them, leaving them cracked and dogeared and thick with moisture from the steam of a hot bath.

I love sitting on my sofa and looking at the books and remembering the ones I loved, the ones that inspired me, the ones that made me want to keep writing and keep reading and keep trying, the ones that helped me see something in a new light and maybe forgive myself for my failings.

Books aren't just good when you're laid up with a stomach bug or a cold. Books are good for heartaches, too.
“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos… to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.” ― John Cheever 
The irony will always be that fiction can help us see the truth.
Go here for more good reads during the 31 Days of Happiness:
The Gold Shoe Blog
That's Just My Opinion
Nothing But Time For Me
My Sweet Addiction
Jen Talks A Lot About
Stellar Fashion and Fitness

Then go here for something awesome.


  1. This is awesome, but I'm now at my desk swaying my arms in the air singing Sexual Healing. Thanks.

  2. I've been singing it in my head all afternoon. I almost posted the YouTube video of that song but I thought it might take the weight off my very important message about books.

  3. I never take your "neat" books by the pool, fear Ill drop one of them and say.."Oh that book, I cannot return it and I cannot tell you why"...BTW, the last book I returned to you, I was trying to be so careful, but got chili on one of the pages.


  4. I am one who "read[s] books like [I am] conquering them!" My books are dogeared, highlighted, swollen from bubble bath steam, and have notes written in the margins. But, they are proudly displayed. Shawn & I consider book shelves the ultimate decorating tool.

  5. Lovely, this. I found a Goodwill thrift bookstore nearby. Could've easily spent hours upon hours there. I got a book called "The Happiness Project" by somebody Rubin or something. Anyway, good reading replenishes the mind.

  6. "I am careful with my books- I rarely crack the spine - but I have no problem with friends who read books like they are conquering them, leaving them cracked and dogeared and thick with moisture from the steam of a hot bath."

    That sentence might just be the most beautiful sentence I have read in years. I now am imagining people's books coming to life with the "signatures" of their readers, like toys in "Toy Story."

  7. Oh, exactly! I was thinking about "The Velveteen Rabbit" and about how books can be loved into being real.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.