Here’s What You Do

Let's say you're going through…stuff. As is the case, you know, with most of humanity. And let's posit further that you're feeling mixed up and uncertain. Also fearful: fearful is big. Maybe, possibly, you're taking a chance, which you know (somewhere) is a good thing to do, but it's still terrifying. Bonus points if whatever you're doing involves a major blow to your income.

Am I being cryptic enough? I think so. Suffice it to say that I am going boldly where I have not gone before, and it's scary and good, then good and then scary again. And what do you do when you're doing that?

Well, you read a good book is what you do. Something so true to itself that it blasts away any inclination to hesitation, and leaves you cleansed and shocked, a little bit how you feel after being wiped out by a wave and then you've landed on shore: out of breath, disoriented, happy to be alive. (This is assuming your mouth is not full of sand.)

I'm thinking maybe Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Or Anna Karenina? But that might be because they are both haunting my coffee table for various reasons, and I already know I love them.

Perhaps I should venture further: any ideas?

20 thoughts on “Here’s What You Do

  1. Mating, by Norman Rush. I think you mentioned that you have read it– but I find it a great book to keep one company on a journey into the unknown. (That only works if you love it like I do).

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  2. All of the above are true for me right now, especially huge, huge amounts of fear.
    My go to recommendations always seem to involve Madeleine L’Engle for her honest and completely without snark writing about real, complicated feelings, and for her no nonsense optimism, which always seems to give me hope.
    Also, I am about to reread Harry Potter, both because my daughter is reading them now and they’re a little scary for her so I want to refresh my memory so I can talk to her about them. But I’m also going to reread them because I want to escape the real world and its scary scariness.

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  3. I reread Beauty by Robin McKinley a couple of nights ago for these reasons. I’m reading 1Q84 now and somehow a parallel universe seems to be similarly comforting.

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  4. Oh, re: Beauty, thank you for reminding me of a book that absolutely blew me away when I was in middle school. Have been wanting to find it again and I couldn’t remember the author’s name! I loved Robin McKinley so much that my final project for 7th grade lit was a sequel to “The Hero and the Crown.” Sometimes I still think of what I wrote and want to die.

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  5. Some Anne Lamott?
    Belatedly, thanks for your previous post recommending Far from the Tree. I hadn’t thought of it as being *that* kind of book at all … I will take a look.

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  6. If it were me, I would probably go for “The Idiot.”
    Right now I’m actually enjoying Barbara Kingsolver’s new book whose title I can’t remember. I haven’t really liked anything she’s written since “The Poisonwood Bible,” but this one is a good story.
    One of my favorite books that might fit your needs is Colum McCann’s “Let the Great World Spin” because — really — that’s all we can do, sometimes.

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  7. Ender’s Game sort of always did that for me. What else? Hmm. Sense and Sensibility. I don’t know. Those are rather random but there you go.
    Also, I hope this cryptic thing involves you writing more. I have an inkling of a hope.

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  8. I have discovered that one of my go-to books is “Staggerford” by Jon Hassler. His writing is at once lyrical but wryly humorous.
    I also enjoy Richard Russo’s books – because I want to sit down in a diner with his characters.

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  9. Did I ever mention that you guys are awesome? It sounds cloying and mawkish both, but I am struck by your (collective you, all who seem to comment here) generosity and kindness. Thank you for it, it invariably makes my days better, even if they’ve started out crappy.

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  10. What about Anne Patchett? Read State of Wonder, or The Magician’s Assistant, or Run. Any one of those will capture you, take you away from yourself, and bring you back home feeling better stronger cleaner than when you left.

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  11. When I need a book to “hug me and tell me everything will be okay” I turn to two books……..
    Enchanted Barn
    Partners
    both by Grace Livingston Hill.

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  12. I just want to say, take a deep breath and jump into the fear. This is what life is about. Being out of your comfort zone will make you more appreciative of being in your comfort zone once you reach it again. And enjoy the new feelings that come with the new life.
    I took a big (I mean huge) professional leap three years ago (I get bonus points!). I spent 45 minutes on the phone on the eve of the jump with my parents who felt that they needed to tell me what a HUGE mistake I was making.
    I made the jump and have never looked back except to say, I’m so glad I did it.
    My advice, don’t talk to your parents about it (if they are like my parents)! And get some good magazines (like Cooks Illustrated, or Living) and a cup of tea. Good for you.

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  13. For me it’s Diane Duane’s grown-up books (sorry, I have an aversion to saying things are “adult” because it sounds skeevy). Specifically, the Tale of the Five series. The other one is the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay. Or, also by him, A Song for Arbonne.

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  14. Depending on the move/income change/stress, I might finally read Gaudy Night again–it’s been so long that it’d feel new to me–or maybe Persuasion, which is just so great now that I’m middle-aged. But there’s always the joy of hiding my head in Wodehouse–during my kids’ rounds of illness last spring I read one that had tons of cricket in it, none of which I understood, but all of it, even the lengthy cricket bits, made me laugh. Even when I was afraid no one would ever sleep again.
    Maybe the best oddball touchstone I might return to is a book that appears awful because of its terrible, terrible cover but really has a surprisingly sweet, if uber-meta, heart–First Contact by Evan Mandery. It’s certainly a story to make you feel it is worth doing the scary true thing because, well, no matter what, it’s later than we think. Oh! and practically, if I were planning how to do a new thing, I’d return again to The Chairs Are Where the People Go–that one is a fantastic thinking aid for me. Wish I’d read it years and years ago. Good luck!

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  15. I am replying to everyone, and feel like a freak, but I have to say to this that I very nearly wrote Wodehouse myself. Was the Crickety book “Mike”? The Wodehouse that I like the very best for bracing myself for the unknown is the Psmith series, of which “Mike” is the uneven first book– the rest of them are pure joy and the character of Psmith will make you feel like you can literally do anything if you just have enough cheek (or “the crust of a rhinoceros”).

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  16. In the same boat right now if I’m reading correctly. My two go to books have been The Literary and Potatoe Pie Peel Society when I need something completely honest and real feeling but stil sweet and reassuring, and One Thousand White Women when I need a little more distance.

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  17. It’s taken me a bit to lay hands on it, but the specific crickety Wodehouse I meant was The Prefect’s Uncle. It’s a very early work, I think, sort of vague, but still fun. I haven’t run across Mike yet–I’ll be looking it up now, though. Thank you!

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