I’m coming to you this week as the host for an awesome group of people writing for #BookishBloggersUnite. If you haven’t checked out the rest of these lovelies, what are you waiting for?! From Texas to Australia, we’re talking some recent reads that have really had an impact on how we think, how we feel, or how we view ourselves.
It’s not a newsflash that I read a lot. Currently sitting at 95 books for the year actually (believe it or not I know several people who have blown past that already this year). I read them for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes I’m just bored and there’s nothing on tv that sounds better. Sometimes it’s just habit. Then there are those times where something grabs you by the heart and you forget that the story isn’t real. That’s not true though, is it? Fictional stories can be just as real as anything. Even before there was written word, there were stories that explained the universe. They explained the human condition and how we are who we are and where we came from. The impact of those stories are just as real as any true story you may ever hear. That connection is real. Do the people exist? No. Do they need to? No. So, then why have stories always been used in this way? I don’t have the answer for that. What I do know, is that a story can connect directly to someone’s heart in a way that many people often can not.
Sure, there are silly stories that make us laugh, or complex stories that make us think, or kissing stories that make us glad someone’s getting their happily ever after. But sometimes? Sometimes there are stories that just melt your heart in places you didn’t know could liquefy. Sometimes there are stories that make you just want to call someone up and say “I see you”. Sometimes those stories just feel like arms wrapped around your soul. Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but if it does you just haven’t found the right stories yet. I think that’s the biggest part of why I am so determined to be a writer. and yet so terrified to actually do it. I want someone to read my words and feel like I see them. I want to put a smile on someone’s face and make them fall in love. I want to give them a reason to block out all the noise, even for just a few hours.
There have been a couple of books that have really made me think lately in that ‘sucker punch to the heart when I wasn’t looking’ kind of way. The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I went into this book with the recommendation that it was “If Eleanor Oliphant worked in a bookshop and had tattoos, and was slightly less problematic” or something similar. It’s a story of Loveday, a bibliophile who has worked in a bookstore since she was 15. Her childhood is parceled out in small snips here and there as she is confronted with certain things in her life. An ex boyfriend is kind of, sort of stalking her. Books that should never have been around start showing up and forcing her to confront her past. A lost book introduces her to someone who she can’t quite figure out how to be with. He is patient, kind, and a poet. She is, she thinks, just too damaged. Her tattoos are first lines of books that meant something to her. They remind her of parts of her life that have shaped her into who she is. It’s not as big of a twist as Oliphant has and I think that’s a good thing. Even being able to predict how this was going to end didn’t lessen the impact when it was over. There are a few poems sprinkled throughout that help the characters express what they are feeling and it’s an incredibly effective device. It says something really powerful about communication and self trust. Before reading this book I have never considered getting a tattoo. They’re just not for me is all. When I was done with this story though, my brain immediately asked “which line would you get” and for me, that’s a mark of a great story. It pushes you to consider something about yourself. Even if it’s something as simple as getting a tattoo.
I’m not even sure I can put into words how I felt about this book. I originally picked it up because the audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. If there is anything that rivals my love of reading, it is my admiration for LMM (Don’t challenge me to a Hamilton lyric based conversation. Been there, won that my friend). I’d heard a few good things about this book, but I wasn’t prepared for it in any way. Honestly? This may be the most beautiful story I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a tough read (trigger warnings for violence). Two teenagers in the 80s are learning how to grow up and figure out who they are. They’re best friends. One is gay. One is lost. All they really have for sure is each other. Once I turned it on though, I couldn’t bring myself to turn it off. I was cheering for them and refusing to look at how much time was left because I didn’t want it to end. And when it did, I just sat there. Silent. Exhausted. Heartbroken, but Happy. In love with the beauty of a story that needs to be told because there are so many people that will read it and say “I see me. That’s me” and I hope they feel seen. I hope they feel loved. And then I hope that they know I see them too.
So maybe these stories aren’t for you. Maybe you don’t want something that feels quite so heavy, quite so loaded. That doesn’t mean you’re just not a reader. Don’t you dare tell me you’re not a reader. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can say to me. I will search day and night until I find that book that you can’t put down. The one that sticks with you, niggling at the back of your brain. The one that wraps you like a warm blanket, or makes you smile like an ice cream cone in the middle of summer. Or even, the one that leaves you sobbing on the couch, hugging a book to your chest because what you needed most in the world at that moment was to just cry and let all that weariness flow away. Trust me, it’s out there.