This is an essay I wrote years ago (maybe 4?), but have been looking for during the last 2 years. So, I'm putting it here for you to enjoy and, so hopefully, I won't lose it again.
It's my fortress- it protects me from the stares of strangers in a restaurant, on a bus, or in a doctor's waiting room. It protects me from boredom or an uncomfortable conversation. I'll carry it even when I know there's no chance of my pulling it out of my purse, like when I go out to eat with my husband or to a friend's house for a 4th of July barbecue. When I'm feeling really insecure, I carry more than one. Who knows which one I will want when the time comes? Better take two, just in case. Then I'm really prepared. I have a big purse. I use them at traffic lights and while waiting in line. I tell myself that it helps me be patient, and therefore I'm being virtuous. I know I'm fooling myself when I say that. I just feel better when I have a book.
As a kid, I never minded when my parents would send me to my room, or tell me I couldn't come out until it was clean. That's where my books were. I'd spend hours in there, and when my mom came in to find out if my room was done, I could at least tell her truthfully that I hadn't left the room. I learned to walk home while reading, glancing just above the book every now and then to make sure I didn't walk into traffic. Books kept me safe from bullies and the trauma of being a 7th grader.
The worst punishment my parents ever gave me was taking my books away. For the second time, I had failed math, and for the second time, I had lied about it. My teachers told my parents that part of the problem was my reading in class, instead of paying attention to the lessons. So, in addition to being grounded for 6 weeks, all of my books were packed in boxes and put in the attic. I remember standing in the pantry reading cereal boxes and the ingredients on canned goods to tide me over until the punishment ended. My friends smuggles library books for me which I hid in me locker at school and under my mattress at home. (Later, my mom told me how hard the punishment was for her to give. She never thought she'd have to try and stop her child from reading.)
When I go on a trip, one of my biggest decisions is which books to take. This one is serious, this one is lighter, this one is from an author I know, this one is an unknown. What if I start reading one and then I don't like it? What if my mood changes? What if I finish that one and want another from the same author or series? I guess I should just take them all. Luckily they don't weigh carry-on luggage yet. My husband laughs when I go to a bookstore while on a trip to buy more books to supplement the ones I brought with me. One of my favorite trips was to Portland, Oregon, because that's where Powell's Books is located. It's a bookstore that fills an entire city block. How could you not love that?
Last summer, I had to go to the hospital (a 3 day stay for a minor surgery.) I planned the 5 or 6 books to take with me very carefully. They were engrossing, ones I'd been looking forward to reading for a while, so I knew they would keep me entertained while I was lying in bed. I hadn't realized that being on morphine would make me sleep most of the time and make it hard to focus while I was awake. So, instead of reading, I just held a book and that was close enough.
I've always known which books I will take to that desert island because they are the ones I can read over and over again. Watership Down. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Dark is Rising series. Those went with me to Ecuador and Australia in high school and then to Europe in college. They aren't the only books that made those trips, but they were the first ones I packed. I'm not sure their stories are even the point any more. Is till lost myself in the words and it's like coming home.
I might add more to the desert island list now- I think Harry Potter would be another that I like reading and re-reading. Also, this was definitely written pre-kids- while I certainly do still carry books with me, I get much less chance of reading these days.