My colleagues noticed that I was running out of books… and here’s what happened

With an ongoing lockdown, and libraries shut until further notice, my book supply had all but dried up as of last week. For someone who always carries something to read and only sleeps soundly with a healthy to-read-stack waiting for her in the morning, this was a problem. I suffered withdrawal symptoms, albeit non-physical ones, and longed more for the escapism good books provide than ever before.

Sure, one can order books online, but I get through about three books a week. This option would no doubt prove money and space consuming, for I live in a tiny house. And yes, I’ve heard of ebooks, but I spend my working days looking at screens and prefer to switch off whenever I can. Besides, there’s nothing like holding a physical book in your hands, especially if it’s an old one with that instantly recognizable smell of old books.

I must have looked increasingly haggard, for my colleagues started to notice that something was wrong. Long story short – pun very much intended – books have recently started to appear on my desk. Sometimes they were swapped with other books – my copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club has found a temporary new home – sometimes they were placed quietly next to my elbow as I was absorbed by a particularly challenging call, sometimes they were handed to me in bulk, in Tesco carrier bags.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why I still meet my colleagues in the flesh: I work for the NHS and remote working is not an option. This, as will hopefully become clear, has turned into a bit of a blessing in disguise in these challenging times.

I now have an ample supply of books and quite a few of them I would never have picked myself. Apart from the delight that comes with having a stack of books waiting for me when I get home – it feels like Christmas and my birthday have come early and at once – I’ve discovered authors and entire genres I wouldn’t normally read. One of my colleagues is partial to detectives and thrillers, genres I don’t particularly dislike, but don’t normally reach for either. Turns out reading about people doing terrible things to each other is a great distraction from the current messiness of our world.

As it stands, I’m working my way through this eclectic pile:

  • NOFX and Jeff Alulis: The Hepatitis Bathtub and other stories (non-fiction punk rock star memoir, not for the faint of heart)
  • Colin Harrison: You Belong to Me (urban thriller involving a map collector)
  • Jess Kidd: Things in Jars (delightful Victorian detective with a supernatural twist)
  • George Orwell: Coming Up for Air (no idea what this is about yet, but Orwell has never disappointed me so this is bound to be good. Also lovely old 1970s Penguin paperback)
  • Martina Cole: Damaged (contemporary detective featuring an ex-gangster)
  • Camilla Grebe: The Ice Beneath Her (Scandinavian thriller with a clichéd blurb, but it came highly recommended by its previous reader)
  • Aoife Clifford: All These Perfect Strangers (thriller set in university, should be reassuringly familiar to me)
  • Jill McGown: Unlucky for Some (a detective novel involving bingo, very intriguing)
  • Clare Donoghue: Trust No One (no idea what to think of this one, looks like another thriller)
  • Harlan Coben: Just One Look (wonder if someone has created a thriller-title-generator as they all seem alike, but it features hit men, so it should be fast-paced, which is good)
  • Mons Kallentoft: Earth Storm (winner of the prize for best author name, offering another Scandinavian thriller)

I’m having a ball. It’s like being handed a huge supply of your favourite chocolate, hearing that you’ve won the lottery, and scoring a hot new boyfriend, all at once. I’m actively looking forward to my days off now instead of dreading their loneliness. I have other worlds I can go to which are not as dreary and restrictive as this one. Of course I hope this whole hot mess will get better sooner rather than later. But for the time being, I feel like I’m able to cope again.

Image by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

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