Advent Day 1: I’m grateful for an ever-growing to-read list.

 

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If I had to choose an addiction, I’d say “books”; but, also, rather, that they chose me. I don’t even remember a time I wasn’t reading. My first memories consist of torchlight, blanket fort, and stack of books. And, very soon after, prescription glasses. Hey, all addictions have their price. There is something so juicily, exquisitely exciting about a new book by a favourite author arriving in the mail, whether fiction, non-fiction or somewhere in between. I feel all wriggly with delight on the inside.

Mind you, I have never been the fastest reader. I think I might be the slowest reader I know; so much so that I’m convinced I have some undetected attention or learning disorder. In fact, I tend to glare sulkily and jealously at friends with photographic memories who don’t so much read as Xerox pages of books into their minds.

But I love rollicking good fiction and well-written non-fiction. I love having my mind and ideas and fixed points twisted and pulled out of shape and entertained and squashed… I love being carried on new ships and seas and rivers and someone else’s dreams. I think it is one of the easiest ways to come out of ourselves, one of the laziest, one of the kindest.

So many books to get through! All the miles to go before I sleep, to borrow from and paraphrase one of my favourite American poets.

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I’m grateful for proficiency in English.

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It’s a cliche, I’m sure, that most writers love words, grew up with them, abated loneliness with them and/or found refuge or survival in them. It’s a cliche that they share with other people who do things like paint, draw, dance and make music: disappearing into their medium, their art, especially when the vicissitudes and hypocrisies and downright absurdity of life came up against their sensitive dispositions.

But the thing that makes me love writing is playing with words, how others play with words, the shivery deliciousness of words arranged in a phrase that either pierces you right in the heart, or paints a blooming picture in your head, or introduces you to your new literary BFF, or spins something delightfully about its head, or just. Sounds. Beautiful. Like golden liquid sunlight.

I am so grateful I know the English language enough to love it deeply, to play with it and dance with it and hear it.

Also, there are professional benefits to being a grammar nazi. 🙂


Text in the picture is from a Catherynne M. Valente’s book, one of the Fairyland series.

I’m grateful for bookshops.

I love the smell of bookshop

It smells like rustling paper

Crisp and itchy like linen

Or whispery thin like wafer

It smells like crunchy stories

The whiff of haste and pace

Or languid atmospheric

Perfume and embrace

It smells like couch and coffee

Like dim candles and red wine

Like deep imagination calling

Us to feast and to divine.

I’m grateful for squashy couches.

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I love squashy couches and armchairs. I particularly love them in sweet little cafés with lots of light. It must be one of the simplest and comfiest indulgences in the world to curl up in a squashy armchair or couch and get sucked into a good book with intermissions of nice pots of tea or mugs of decaf soy latte and crumbly buttery biscuits. And I love a good nap on a squashy couch!

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I’m grateful for moodiness.

For it ensures I read and view very different and varied material indeed. There are times I simply cannot tolerate another dystopian future fantasy, young adult or otherwise; times in which I just can’t bear another good-story-nonetheless-consisting-of-sappy-romance (I have never experienced a mood in which I want to read sappy romantic fiction otherwise); days I can’t bear another sequel, or another metaphysically-gifted adult or teenager.

Moodiness has led me into nostalgia, which has prompted me to re-read things like Alice in Wonderland, Sophie’s World, and The Merchant of Venice, stuff of my childhood. Moodiness has led me into no-nonsense, no-indulgence exasperation, which has led me to authors I normally overlook, or stories I hadn’t immediately taken to before– an example is Katya’s World of the Russalka Chronicles. I LOVE the Russalka Chronicles now. It has even occasionally given me the patience to overlook crappy writing for an otherwise good story for its target audience. *coughTwilightcough*

And I definitely need to be in a particular mood to read poetry.

I like my moods. Yes, getting our emotions under control is a mature, productive and freeing thing, but we don’t need to demonize moods, moodiness or emotions to achieve it, for those things make us what we are: juicy, changeable, loving, empathetic human beings.

I’m grateful for libraries.

ImageNote: This is not my local library. But it’s certainly one version of library that appears in my good dreams.

I have, in my life, been well-employed, unemployed, freelancing, employed, a student, a volunteer, and some combination of the above at some transitioning points. So I know what it is like to have to watch and count your pennies, and sometimes I haven’t had comprehensive health insurance either. That’s why I will forever be grateful to libraries, the good ones, the ones which are well-funded either by some well-meaning philanthropic foundation or a government that truly does believe in its investment in education (I don’t care what political leaning it thinks it has).

A government that funds its public libraries well and stocks it both with dedicated staff and excellent collections is a government that believes in egalitarianism and meritocracy. Knowledge and escapism for all, wherever you are on whatever manmade scale into which you have been slotted. In the places I lived, in the times in my life (I almost wrote “lives”, and maybe that’s also acceptable) in which I was too poor to buy all the books I wanted to read, there was the library.

I was a librarian for a short time in primary school, because I liked having unsupervised access to the books. That’s until I stole one because I loved it so much I wanted to keep it. It was about apples and apple trees, which seemed to foretell the nature of my developing relationship with books.

In my all-girls high school, I hid out in the library whenever adolescent angst made me upset. Well, it was there or the chapel, and Jesus hanging on the cross and a mournful-looking Mary did not exactly do much for my mournful mood.

Now, in between lives again, I raid the library frequently. It is a wonderful library, with very current titles and all the award-winning novels and non-fiction, and if they don’t have something you want, you’re invited to email them and tell them why it should be in the collections. It smells like possibility. Everyone and anyone can just walk in and there, on those quiet, ordered shelves, are worlds just waiting to be visited.