Books to Get Me Through

Yesterday, my fellow Miss Demeanor, Susan Breen, talked about buying each of the books recently nominated for the Edgar in the best novel category. She rationalized, quite reasonably in my view, that money not spent in restaurants during the pandemic could be redirected to purchasing books.

I got to thinking about my own book-buying habits while being isolated as we all hope and pray the pandemic will soon be over. I will confess that my husband and I started our marriage with this philosophy about finances: First, we buy books; then we buy food. So, it’s not surprising that being deprived of the pleasure of browsing and buying books in person has led me to complete abandon as I shop online for books. But with so many books, how do I choose which books? The reasons seem to fall into the categories of Smart, Savvy, Sentimental, and Seemingly Silly.

Smart. Books about the craft of writing are the second only to going to school, in my opinion. Although I’ve experienced a common perplexing inertia while I have endless time to write, the opportunity to take the time and read the excellent advice of great writers has been a gift. If the ink in my pen won’t always flow, I can turn to their wisdom. I’m especially grateful to have discovered (late, but never too) Rewrite Your Life by Jessica Lourey and (again, late) Story Genius by Lisa Cron.

Savvy. Reading books in the genres that I love to read and write in isn’t just pure pleasure. I learn so much from my writing colleagues while I enjoy the distraction from the sad events surrounding me. I thought beach reading was the ultimate reader’s pleasure when I absorbed the books I packed to bring to Mexico and St. John each winter. While reading with your toes in the sand is not at all shabby, sitting on a sofa being drawn into the pages of fiction that remove you from what feels unbearable is a gift. There are too many to mention, but here’s part of the pile that’s getting me through. The Lucky One (Lori Rader Day), Watch Her (Edwin Hill), The First to Lie (Hank Philippi Ryan), The Turn of the Key (Ruth Ware), (Goodnight Beautiful) Aimee Molloy, And Now She’s Gone (Rachel Howzell Hall).

Sentimental. I have been drawn to poetry, my reading “comfort food” as I witness the sorrow and pain around me. David Whyte, Mary Oliver, Seamus Heaney, I owe you.

Seemingly Silly.  Pick up Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, examine its cover, and ask yourself, why would I read a book by an anonymous author whose fans call Her Grace? Then do it. You may be surprised by the wisdom, wit, fun, and joy you experience getting lost within the pages of this “memoir” and find yourself questioning the definition of silly.


  1. Smart: Loved Story Genius by Lisa Cron. My go-tos are David Corbett’s character books, The Art of Character and The Compass of Character. I do deep character work before starting a new book and it’s kept me out of the shallows more times than I can count.

    Savvy: I just finished Mick Herron’s Slough House series reading it back to back and have the newest on preorder. Also, I just read John LeCarre’s Karal triology. The Honourable Schoolboy is so gorgeously written.

    Sentimental: The historicals. Now reading Catriona McPherson’s latest Dandy Gilver, The Mirror Dance, and just began The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. My sisters and I are reading that together. Should be fun.

    Silly: LOVED Becoming Duchess Goldblatt which was not always silly. Sometimes but an overall theme of redemption I enjoyed.

  2. I definitely feel in the mood for something silly. Will read Duchess Goldblatt. (But first have to finish reading 6 Edgar nominees!)

  3. More adventures! My go-to’s when stressed are the classics: Jane Austen, Kenneth Grahame, Dame Agatha, Anthony Trollope, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Eliot, E. M. Forster, etc.

  4. Right now I’m reading “assigned” books (grad school), but Rachel Howzell Hall’s novel is at the top of my TBR pile, waiting for Spring Break

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