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Avoiding Thought

“Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.” - Arthur Helps

I had forgotten this very specific type of hunger, the kind for reading. For books. It has been a long time since it rose up, making my fingers twitch for the feel of fresh pages. Leading my feet into bookshop after bookshop, just to touch spines and sit, reverently amongst book shelves, like I’m sat in a great cathedral of imagination and possibility, which, I suppose, I am.

I feel like I’m just re-discovering the taste of fresh water after drought. And I am lapping it up greedily. Book after book after book. I am back to the echo of my fourteen year old self, leaning forward over the kitchen counter with novel in one hand and a hastily made sandwich in the other. I am back to eagerly retreating in to the dark sanctuary of my duvet as soon as I am able, back to the dance of turn and twist as my body finds the perfect combination of head on cold pillow, with book supported, flipping to lie on my stomach until the ache of my wrists and neck move me back again.

I had forgotten the intoxication of it. The draw in and IN, words running through eyes and brain like a rich torrent. The slow double -blink as you look up from the page, fantasy worlds overlapping with real life in a disorientating double negative.

And I had forgotten how, at times like THIS, how the inner world of stories and mysteries and romance and impossibility can quickly become more appealing than the real life outside, especially in the times when Kai is in bed and the house is quiet. How much easier, for a while, to take on the personality of somebody else. Their thoughts, their words, when your own seem so confusing and hard to bear.

In books suffering is noble. Pain is beautiful. Lives, however hopeless, have a meaning and a narrative and a progression. People talk one at a time, and their thoughts are written out alongside their spoken words. When something is too harsh, it is softened by metaphor.Time and distance are fluid, with long spaces traversed in an instant. Chapter, page, even gaps between lines and words provide an instant pause button to take a moment to stop and reflect, to rewind and re-read, or to close up that life with a slam of covers and sleep and sleep until you are brave enough to re-open.

Yes. It is no wonder I would rather be a little lost in my books than too awake to reality just now.

So if you are not a book, than forgive my struggle with engaging with you. I am trying. I am hearing your voices, reading your beautiful comments and your messages and it is a little like that slow double-blink again. I am not sure whether I am looking up from the page or down into it, awake or asleep, sat on my sofa or some pale girl in a story book. I’m a little lost in the in-between. But that’s ok. I won’t be here for long and it is, at least, safe and uncomplicated which is what I need just now.

I appreciate you, though. Thank you for your words and your thoughts. Even if I don’t reply they mean a lot. I am glad you are there.

Now. Back to the book. Today I am a clairvoyant battling with the demands of the dead and it sounds a little like being a mother with a toddler.

I’ll see you soon.


  1. Books are magical, and healing, and an escape.

    Enjoy your sojourn, and we'll see you back soon xxx

  2. I love reading, but it's the first casualty of my shrinking attention span and used up time. Read something for me, and really really enjoy it?

  3. Oh, I completely understand everything you've said. Books are the best, they really are. I'm finally getting a bit more time to read at the moment, and yearn to just ignore work, life, etc. and curl up with a pile of books. I'm managing about one a week at the moment, where I would manage two or three a year and a half ago and 20+ as a teenager. Oh, for more reading time.

    Enjoy. xxx

  4. Oh how I envy you. All books for me at the moment seem filled with dead children and warring parents. I can't read anything new for fear of the precipice within. Enjoy your books – read something for me :)

  5. avrilwhodoesnthavearecorddeal

    Books are my safety net hon – am glad to find someone else who uses them the way I do *hugs* and good thoughts coming your way

  6. I love getting lost in books too, it's just so refreshing to read about something completely different from 'real life'. *hugs*

  7. Books are a way of removing anything bad from anything ever, even a sad book makes everything go away. This is lovely, I love books, it's like going on an adventure every time I start the first page, new or old.
    This is beautiful.


  8. I love to read. So much so that I feel a sense of loss and grief when finishing a book. As if I have had to say goodbye to a very good friend.

  9. Yup, books (and maybe cake) are the way to your heart; I remember the young teeny you always with head-in-a-book, and we are both still the same now! I shall have to drag out of those pages this week XXXX

  10. mrsljhall

    I love reading, I am never without a book and often have a trail of them around the house and an obscene amount of them under my bed. I love the way a good book can transport you from whatever and wherever you are into new place where time/pain are suspended and magic can happen xxx

  11. Hey, there's nothing like losing yourself in a good book to really bring you out of whatever you are suffering from at the time! Really!

  12. I used to love sitting in 'Borders' reading the afternoon away, but alas that pleasure is now a distant memory, still I do love reading. It comes in fits and spurts and it kinda takes over my life when 'I'm in the zone' – last splurge was all the books by Robin Hobb – magical overload!!

  13. Today I have just moved to the south of France and I'm settling up a new magazine venture there, but I am cautious of the male owner whom I have just met. He seems to be up to something. I don't know what, as yet.

    I will read on …

  14. You reminded me I read Scarlett Thomas's Popco, a few week's back, on holiday and it felt like an addiction, I got so cross when anyone interupted me. I think I needed to lose myself that week! I have just picked up Cloud Atlas for the third time, harder going…not so lost yet.
    Loved your writing, enjoy your reading!

  15. drawingdad

    This is one of the most evocative descriptions of the experience of reading (a good book) that I've ever read. Thank you. I also hope your reality isn't such a bad place to come back to soon. xo

  16. I love getting lost in a book and when you finish the world somehow looks different. Then there's the next one and somehow you can't quite get into it and the spell is broken. Enjoy your reading. I might go off and find a good book now too.

  17. Really enjoyed this post. I too love that feeling of living in a book. Re “avoiding thought”, I think it all depends on the book – and when in your life you are reading it. Sometimes I’ll be reading something and it will be so perceptive or emotive that it will make me think more! Have just read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer which was great, but I sometimes felt too emotionally distressed about the plight of the character that I did not have the mental energy to read more pages. But as you say, you can put it down, draw breath, think it through and carry on when ready.

  18. Welcome back to books Josie. I never fell out of the habit as I *have to* read every night in order to switch my brain off and go to sleep…and now that I'm suffering from pregnancy insomnia a good book is a complete necessity.

    I love reading books that have been recommened, so I'm scurrying off now to take a look at Amazon…

  19. Beautifully written – as ever – but it filled me with envy, which is something that tends to happen when I read posts by other mummy-bloggers. READ! READ!! "How the FECK does Josie find the time to do that?" I would so love to read a book. Next year maybe…the year after…..?


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