Reading and stress

In one sense my reading’s going fine lately — I just finished H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau for the Slaves of Golconda, and I liked it very much; I’m a little ways into the biography of Colette and find her a fascinating subject; I’m nearing the end of Swann’s Way and am eager to find out what happens to Swann and Odette; I’m liking Jane Kenyon’s poems; and Frances Burney continues to write funny scenes in her journals and letters — but in another sense, it’s not. I’m not a very good reader in stressful times. I have trouble sitting still; I can’t concentrate and my mind wanders; I find myself not absorbing very much; I read a page and realize I have no idea what I just read. I need to keep reading during these times — because, really, what else would I DO with my time? — but it doesn’t absorb me in quite the same way.

I should probably pick up something light to get me through, something that I won’t care too much about if I don’t read very carefully. I’m not a frequent “light” reader though. I say that realizing it might sound like bragging, like I’m all great literature all the time, but I don’t mean it to; I tend to be a slow, serious reader, not given to picking something up for the pleasure of losing myself for a while in a plot and tearing through it to the end. And this is a problem in times like this, when losing myself in a plot is exactly what I need, and I’m at a bit of a loss. I’ll have to look around the house; surely we have something that would suit.

I find that in stressful times taking a bike ride is a better option than sitting down with a book. It’s easier for me to lose myself in the physical activity of the ride — to get rid of my worried, obsessive thoughts about whatever it is that’s stressing me out while working hard climbing one of the local hills (or, more likely, climbing a dozen of the local hills) — than to lose myself in a book. But I’ll still be hunting around for the perfect book to pick up after my ride is over. We’ll see what I find.

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