From the Bookshelf: The Graveyard Book

I’ve meant to read something by Neil Gaiman for years.

His writing advice is (in my personal opinion) some of the best I’ve ever come across, and has been my go-to when I need a pick-me-up. I follow him on his Tumblr and find almost everything he says to be charming, if nothing else.

More than once I’ve caught myself thinking, “I want to be that man when I grow up.” (Yes, I’m 26. But I am still very certain that I’m not a grown-up yet.)

This should all come as no real surprise, as I quote him near incessantly.

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From the Bookshelf: Starting Again

I remember being a child, finding solace in books. I was, as Neil Gaiman has so eloquently described it, one of those feral children raised by libraries.

Books took me places I could never go. It was in their pages I found friends and support, when I felt it nowhere else.

That is why I wanted to be a writer: to give back. Return the favor ages later for new readers I couldn’t have even imagined.

I will admit. Over the last eight years, I haven’t done as much reading as I would have liked. After school ended, I found myself forgetting to make time in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Sure, there were a few times that I would sneak out, when the itch got to be too much to bear. Go to the bookstore to pick up maybe just one book, just this once, and drink the words from the pages as if ink were whiskey. It would be exhausted in a day or three, devoured during late nights where the words were more important than sleep.

I’d gotten my hit, then. The itch satisfied. Something to sustain me for a little while longer, until it nagged at the corners of my mind again.

Then, all of a sudden, my health took a drastic nosedive. Almost overnight it became too painful to hold even a common paperback. No matter what the angle, something hurt. If I sat up, it was my wrists. Laid on my side, my shoulders and elbow. On my stomach, my back and neck.

Reading became a Herculean task. Not to mention what it did to the rest of my life.

Between the pain and the struggle to find out what was wrong with me, reading had become low on my priority list.

Oh, I’d of course still make my runs to bookstores. Even then, I couldn’t go without it ever few months. I’d peruse those shelves, pick out a few titles. Tell myself I’d get to them soon. I’d feel better soon. I’d just take a few more pain pills, then I could do it, I was sure. Or maybe if I just sat in the recliner, or switched positions more often…

But it never worked.

Four years ago, I was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Over that time, it’s been a battle of finding the right cocktail of drugs and treatments to turn me back into a real boy from the splintered wooden puppet with shattered hinges that I’d become.

I still haven’t quite found my Blue Fairy, but I’m getting better.

And then, a few birthdays ago, I was gifted with a Kindle. It’s lighter than most of the novels I tend to pick up, and I can put it down on a table or armrest without having to try to figure out how to keep the pages open.

Between my slow crawl back to personhood and the marvels of technology, I’ve made it a top priority to get back to reading. Not only have I missed it for years, but I am sure that my writing has suffered without that constant flow of words.

But, I’ve missed more than just reading. I’ve missed talking about books. About stories. I might be one of the few people in the world to think this, but I honestly used to like assigned reading in school. I liked being able to have a whole group of people with whom I could discuss the material, even if I had found it reprehensible.

Hell, some of my favorite times were complaining to a class or a teacher about exactly why I hated a book. It made me think critically, pick apart what did and didn’t work for me, and the mechanics of it. Much of my own writing has come from what I haven’t liked as much as from what I have.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to keep something of a reading diary.

Not reviews, not exactly. I feel there should be a standard to reviewing, something with transparent guidelines and rigor. I feel that’s an important part of the process of doing any kind of real review.

No, I want to discuss a book. What worked for me, what didn’t. Throw in some of my own thoughts, my own reactions and personal experiences. How they relate to the words, to the story, to the characters. What a story touched and stirred in me. What missed its mark.

Sure, talking to myself isn’t nearly as great as having an actual discussion, but it helps me to focus my thoughts, and yes, practice my craft.

All in homage to something that I loved.

Or didn’t.

All’s fair in love and war.

I don’t have a set schedule. Right now, the plan is just to “read more.” Stretch my legs, and my mind. Discover something surprising. Find comfort in something familiar. Remember what it was like to lose myself somewhere else.

Because isn’t that what it’s all about?