Healthy Escapism

Read! Read! Read! How much and how often do you open a book? I must confess I am a read-a-holic, spending every lunch–and sometimes dinner, when my husband is watching the hockey game–with my Kindle propped up in front of my plate.

Sadly, however, the majority of people in the U.S. read only rarely–even highly educated folks seldom plunge into anything with a cover more than a few times a year. Television and social media capture our miniscule attention spans more often than a book does. The literacy level in the nation, which is appalling, underlines information from Wikipedia, (a quite reliable source), about the public’s reading ability: the “average” American can read only at a first or second grade level, and much of that is focused on medication directions, product information, or popular fiction. Now, I know this is not true of you–because you are immersed in my newsletter. Bravo!

In the past two weeks, I have read The Golden Son and Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda. Both of these captivating novels about India and America don’t let you down in terms of plot and pace and are, happily enough, well written at the same time.

Now I am in the middle of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, a complex and literary tour de force, where love, friendship and betrayal drive the action; the narrator–a communist double agent, who is a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain–comes to the U.S. after the Fall of Saigon, but secretly reports back to his communist superiors in his homeland. It’s something of an espionage novel, and even though ordinarily I don’t read espionage novels, (unlike my husband, who thrives on them), this one has me spellbound. Five star recommendation. The Pulitzer Prize judges agree with me, as they gave it the nod in 2016.

I also enjoy reading in bed before I go to sleep, cuddled up with one or two or three of my Dalmatians. I take a book with me to a restaurant if I am eating there alone; in this way I’m comfortable with going solo to a place crowded with couples. Likewise, I bring something to read for the wait (always interminable) in the doctor’s and dentist’s office, and at the Walgreens prescription pick-up window. In line at the grocery store and tapping my foot with impatience, I make any one of the tabloids my target–if only to laugh at the preposterous stories shrieking from the headlines. I read anywhere and anytime I can cram it in.

Of course, there are many other pastimes in which to lose and soothe yourself, and they are all equally worthy: listening to music, taking long walks, cooking, gardening, hiking, volunteering, going to the movies, hanging out with friends. The list is long. But for me, reading is the cat’s pajamas, as I am a writer and so naturally advocate for the printed word. Entering the strange new universe dreamed up by another human being enables me to put my cares behind me, for a time. And that certainly qualifies as healthy escapism. 

March ushers in spring and is a time for fresh beginnings. Pick up a book–be it any sort of novel (historical, romance, literary or otherwise), or a biography, or a memoir, or a collection of poetry. Not only is reading an excellent way to educate yourself and stretch your brain, it brings with it the pleasure of exploration, like a vacation to a place you’ve never been before.

The next thirty days will transform our world from the hibernation of February into the flowering of April. The 26th of this month is the celebration of “Make Your Own Holiday.” If I were so bold as to suggest one way you might create such a day for yourself, I’d advise either visiting Amazon’s site, driving over to your local Barnes and Noble, or browsing through your favorite independent bookstore. Even the nearest public library–so often forgotten in an age dominated by Kindle and 

Nook–will do.

It would be a treat to hear from you about which books and authors you are luxuriating in now, or even those you are in the midst of hating. I appreciate recommendations of the next treasure to put on the shelf beside my bed, or to add to my Kindle library–as well as warnings about what to stay away from. Please clue me in on whatever you are using to escape!

Have fun between the pages!



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