Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Comfort and Solace of Books

So my real world life has been a bit fraught this week. It started with birds in my loft, followed swiftly by a bird in my landing (long story) and then ended with me pranging my car in a foolish and stupid fashion. No one was hurt fortunately but the car is a bit poorly and my pride (along with the front of the car) has been dented somewhat. As for the birds, they have now been evicted so no more squatters in my roof space. 

Anyhoo, sorting the above alongside the day job and other commitments has made for a bit of a week. None of which has anything to do with books per se but it did get me to thinking about the solace and comfort we can find in books when life gets a little tough. Because what really surprised me this week was how little the chaos of my real world life interfered with my continuing enjoyment of my bookish one.

I think it's because you really can find a book for any occasion. My current read, Catherynne M Valente's 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making' is a case in point. There have been times this week when I've really not felt in the right mood for reading but, because I read every night before bed, I've picked up my book anyway and been sucked into the weird and wonderful adventures of September and her Wyverary (a cross between a Wyvern and a Library and one of many reasons why this particular book is amazing) and, before I know it, I'm having an adventure instead of worrying about paying the roofer's invoice or counting how much my car insurance is going to increase by.

Poetry is another solace for me. I don't read a lot of poetry as a rule but I do turn to it in times of crisis. There's something about poetry which often gets to the heart of a matter - be it life, death, relationships or even a job crisis. I have a couple of anthologies edited by Daisy Goodwin which I often turn to, especially 'Poetry To Last A Lifetime', which is helpfully broken down into sections that cover most of life's major events. The section on Theme Songs contains two of my favourite poems - 'Invictus' by William Ernest Henley (read the poem here) and 'Say not the Struggle Nought availeth' by Arthur Hugh Clough (again, you can read it here) - which I return to time and again when I'm feeling less than positive.

And I don't think I'm alone. I think a lot of people find books to be a help in times of crisis. There are even books about the solace of books in times of crisis! One of my favourites is 'The End of Your Life Book Club' by Will Schwalbe, which is about the author's last months with his mother following her terminal cancer diagnosis and all of the books that they read and enjoy together during this time. It's a remarkable book and,despite the subject matter, very life-affirming. 

So what are your 'crisis' books? Do you have an old favourite you return to and read again or a particular genre that you turn to for a pick-me-up? Or do you avoid reading altogether unless you're in your happy place? Drop me a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I'll be back next time with a wrap up of my January reading and a look forward at my TBRs for February. And until then....

Happy Reading!

Links for books mentioned above:

Daisy Goodwin - 'Poems to Last A Lifetime' sadly seems to be out of print but she does have a recent anthology 100 Poems To See You Through, which seems to have been put together on similar lines.

1 comment:

  1. For familiar comfort, nothing beats The Time Traveller's Wife. And I totally agree about the poetry. There are lots I go back to, or have lines of in my head for times of crisis. Invictus is one, also (and I have no idea why this one helps, but it does) "On me your voice falls as they say love should - like an enormous Yes" (Philip Larkin - and this one by Carol Ann Duffy: