Here’s the deal: When you’re an only child (especially of the Gen-X pre-cell phone variety), and a parent tells you to “entertain yourself” for a few hours when no friends are around, that would often mean television, toys, or books.
When television is deemed off limits and you’ve exhausted all the creative potential of your toy collection, that leaves books, as was precisely the case in my life. I kind of discovered them, by process of elimination, when left with no other mode of stimulation, short of day dreaming and looking at the sky, which are both activities I still love and highly recommend but again, as is my tendency, we digress. Back to books …
And so, from a very tender age, books and I got very cozy. The tentative affair started with the quirkier options Mama G thought I might enjoy: the adventures of famed Pippi Longstocking, Charlie and his never-ending source of amusement (and mine) The Chocolate Factory (every kid’s fantasy) and then who could forget, The Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle Series. I mean that lady had it going on, feisty and fierce before Beyonce was even a twinkle in her mother’s eye.
From there, it was on to the ‘tween and teen faves which, legit (G-d I love that word) would have been nowhere without queen of that genre, Judy “The Bomb” Blume, who had so many of us hooked with her brilliant and eerily close to life captures of protagonists like Margaret (star of the beloved best-selling Are You There G-d, It’s Me, Margaret) who painstakingly communicated worries and concerns to the holy one that we were all grappling with, often in silence (the joys of puberty). Don’t even get me started about Forever, the most daring and naughty of her tomes that friends and I would sneak into class and read when the teacher wasn’t looking (though Ms. Dermo had to know something was up when we were blushing at geometry equations).
Yes, the “book hook” was in early, and deep, and continued throughout the journey, eventually broadening in variety as I added very guilty pleasure chick-lit to the library in the late teens and twenties. (if you haven’t yet had the pleasure and also enjoy a little love drama & glama do check out Jennifer Weiner, Tess Stimson, Sophie Kinsella, Candace Bushnell, Jane Green, and Emily Giffin, all excellent at marrying funny to the relationship honey, best beach read fodder ever!)
Eventually though, non-fiction started to become the lure as I realized that the old cliché is spot on: “Life is stranger than fiction” (thereby making for some incredibly compelling reads!). On that front, I couldn’t get enough of biographies in particular and would consume it all, from celebrities to politicians to scientists to entrepreneurs. Their life stories often read better and inspired more frenetic page turning than I could have ever imagined (even Barack Obama and John bolton’s seemingly endless 800 pagers!) spawning a desire to read more and more of that genre.
They were also unbelievably informative, some of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Sure, the life stories were gripping in their own right but these smarty pants humans had so many pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from their amazing experiences, good and bad. Heck, they became some of the best mentors I’ve ever had and they don’t even know my name.
Today, the consumption is a healthy mix of the above (fun fiction and heavier nonfiction picks like the current faves on my bedstand: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, Face: One Square Foot Of Skin by Justine Bateman, and The Beauty Of Living Twice by Sharon Stone Sharon) but I’ve also fallen madly deeply for a genre I call “the enlighteners,” some of the greatest spiritual minds on the planet – including Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth) Deepak Chopra (Meta-Human), Michael Singer (The Untethered Soul), Gabby Bernstein (The Judgment Detox) and more – who, in my opinion, impart barrels of wisdom, good practises and perspectives integral to a solid and fulfilling life journey … if you allow them to (i.e., surrender many of the judgments of that sphere that obscure their effectiveness).
Ok, you get it! I read books (a lot of them!), and enjoy the experience while learning a lot. But why the sudden burst of book love here on the lesson front?
Simple. In addition to all of the above benefits, books saved my sanity when things got pretty dark in world lockdown on planet pandemic. As explained in the context of other lessons and shares (the impetus for penning this series): my personal reality was pretty hard hit. Suddenly, the main focus of the brand, what made it distinct and sizzle, the social scene (main fodder for DIARY O F A SOCIAL NOT SOFA GAL!) was stopped, halted, pandemic paralysed. No more events, gatherings, fundraisers, red carpets, launches, openings, parties … nada … crickets. And you couldn’t pivot that (some big leagues awards shows tried and while we give them A for effort, snaps of Halle berry and J-Lo all dressed up with nowhere to go surrounded by their kids and spouses ain’t no substitute for the energy of a live red carpet with the snaparazzi snapping away).
Accordingly, with no events to attend, no social columns and social magazines to put out without a social scene, there was suddenly far more time on my side to uh … overthink (my friend Robbie once shared years ago, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”), to worry, stress, and plain old obsess about the surreal devastation overtaking our lives/ my life. At one point, I even became somewhat of a Covid expert, doom-scrolling at a wild pace, the go-to for friends and family on all the latest most terrifying updates the world over (not a healthy headspace and /or new professional endeavour, to say the least.).
ENTER MY SAVIOUR: BOOKS! While always a fan of Amazon’s rapid stash replenishment, I upped the game there too, ordering many at a time. And thank goodness for that.
The more books I consumed on myriad topics (it came to a point where I was consuming one a day on average and pioneering a whole new stimulation experience of reading several simultaneously), the more I wasn’t focusing on the scary parts of our new abnormal and my own heavily compromised reality. They were the best and most necessary escapism when I needed it most, taking me away from so much bad to worlds of good, real and imagined, one page at a time.
They’d always been my friend, now they were book besties …
Which led to yet another simple but profound lesson: when things get tough, really tough, never underestimate the power of a good read.
That’s it folks: Hope you enjoyed this latest lesson, as we move closer and closer to the other side of this crazy existence. Welcoming your thoughts on point, and yes, please do share fave new books and reads and lmk your thoughts on a book club …