In Conversations on Love, author Natasha Lun speaks with Sarah Hepola about reading as a sort of realignment:

It’s an emotional realignment, like somebody’s cracked my spine. If I get lonely, I reach for those pieces of writing that feed the soul. That can lead you back to the best in yourself, or articulate things that you can’t find words for. When you stumble onto something you didn’t know that somebody else felt too, you think, oh my gosh, I’m not the only one. That is falling in love- it’s the self recognized in someone else. A union of souls.

So now that we’ve established that reading is my true soul mate…

The past few weeks I’ve been especially cranky. There is no one reason for the mood- it’s like an accumulation of sludge that has just built up and now is set to explode and seep into my soul. I can’t shake the mood. But on top of all the seemingly endless things that are pushing my dander up into the stratosphere, I must add that I have been on a streak of picking books that just aren’t doing it for me.

Instead of lifting me up…books/reading are dragging me down…

Normally books get me through the tough times- they make me smile or laugh or think or just exhale…

But this month, all I seem to read is books that annoy me…

More than once I have shut a book mid chapter because I just can’t get the author’s point of view- or I get it and I think it’s ridiculous… Or I didn’t like the style in which the author wrote (two books this month- two highly touted books- and the style is driving me crazy)

Then I got a psychological thriller- where bad things happen to bad people- and you know what? I got all my rage out by reading about people who literally got their rage out…

And then I got another psych thriller, which I am amidst, and again, I’m aligning with the psychopaths, which might be a little scary to think about, but it’s making me feel so much better…I get why people snap. I also get that by reading about it I don’t have to literally snap…

Who knew that books about disturbing people could be so emotionally liberating?!

But what about you? Do you reach for books for emotional realignment?

What was the last book that brought you out of a funk? Do you have a genre or author that always works?


57 thoughts on “Realignment

  1. I would not say I automatically reach for a book, but if I did it would have to be one (fiction or non-fiction) in which a marginalized female gains empowerment and literally destroys the patriarchy. I recently finished “When Women Were Dragons”. Quite personally refreshing. I have “Down Girl” on standby as well.

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  2. I do ‘t know of any one book that can lift me up like that. I think that I depend on my own “book” or my memories. It’s easy at 70 years old to have any situation remind you of something that happened before. And the way my mind edits my memory, I usually come out on the good end. Yeah, memories over the real world every time.

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  3. The books that get me out of a funk are usually gripping mysteries where I have to focus on characters and figure out “who done it”. Usually tho, when I’m in a funk I revert back to my favorite authors. I will read Shakespeare’s sonnets or reread or rewatch Pride and prejudice. I don’t usually get into funks very often, but this last week I’ve been in one. Recovering from surgery and not being able to sleep well because of surgical wounds that prevent me from from sleeping on my side or stomach makes me cranky. So I’m overly tired. Plus, the anticipation of starting chemo again tomorrow and trying to prepare myself for all the icky reactions from toxins that will be injected into my system has me on edge. So none of the plots of recent novels have captured my interest, and putting a large Austen anthology hurts too much to plop into my lap. So what is the the next best escape? The 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth seems to bring me to my happy place. His performance of one of my favorite literary hero’s was so perfect that I am continually drawn back in to the world of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. I escape into a world of perfectly crafted characters, so vividly described that over the years they have become real friends to me. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock has the same pleasing affect. Where once I enjoyed a tangled web of more adventure now when I’m down I need Darcy , Heathcliff or Holmes. The joy I first felt when I read those tried and true classic novels are like drugs to me.

    Sometimes chemo medication inhibits my concentration ability so reading has lately been pushed aside for film, which always pales in comparison. But anything Austen usually works. It’s sheer escapism but it’s lovely.

    I do have to say however, I recently read a short story by Kate Quinn called “Signal Moon”. It only took a few hours but I loved it. ( you can download it). It took my mind away from the doldrums, brought me back in time, and I could not put it down. Again, it’s a short story and it snapped me right out of being cranky. So perhaps you might enjoy it too.

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      1. Yes. It’s brilliantly done and one of the few renditions where they used her actual lines from the book. Plus there is the Lake scene. Colin Firth in 1995 made the perfect Darcy. And if anyone can put me in a good mood it’s Mr. Darcy. ❤️

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    1. I used to be in the same “school” as Lesley. Classic books always used to do it for me. Like comfort food, I went back to them over and over, probably because I always knew what I would get from them. Maybe that’s why they’re “classics.”

      In the larger context of LA’s post, I postulate that since it appears we might be finally getting out of Covid, or at least out of the worst parts and lockdowns, we’re just not sure how to adjust to the “new normal” all and each of us are having to deal with. I think subconsciously it is making all or at least many of us, especially we “elders”, cranky and out of sorts.

      For the younger ones who may adjust more quickly, it might be easier for them to just roll with each change as it comes. At least that’s what I observed in my 30-something daughters. For the even younger ones that are more sensitive and vulnerable, I think the continual and unpredictable changes have unfortunately made them more frightened, insecure and depressed.

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  4. Reading novels gives me insights into how people deal with their problems, but I don’t think they emotionally realign me. Maybe they do in the sense that I compare myself with the protagonist and wonder if I’d handle situations the same way.

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  5. A few years ago, most contemporary novels were seeming to be rather ho-hum and I wondered if every author was following the same formula to churn out their books. Then I read Amor Towles’ “A Gentleman in Moscow” and was reminded of what great authors can do. It was the closest thing to a perfect book that I have read in years. Today, I only have to think about that book to become energized and inspired about literature. In terms of “oldies, but goodies” that never fail to thrill me, Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” probably tops the list.

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    1. Donna, Persuasion is a wonderful novel. One of my favorites as well. What did you think of the newest version on Netflix? While many loved it, purists did not. I’m so starved for Austen that while it was more modern, I still enjoyed it. In my opinion, Any version of Austen is still far superior to anything else out there. So I still loved it. And to me, the more young People who this new version inspires to read the original version, then the better.

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      1. Hi, Lesley, the recent Netflix version was okay, but I kept comparing it to the 1995 BBC film staring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds … which was sublime, and much truer to Austen’s novel. Plus, I have a bit of a crush on Ciarán Hinds. And, unlike most people, I prefer the 1980 BBC mini-series of Pride ad Prejudice to the 1995 one with Colin Firth. David Rintoul IS Mr. Darcy….

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      2. I also loved the Amanda Root, Ciaran Hinds version of Persuasion and have it on DVD. I have seen the 1980 version of P&P and it just didn’t affect me as deeply as the Jennifer Ehle / Colin Firth version. I didn’t bond with this version of the kprotagonists as much. And while I enjoyed the 2005 Kiera Knightly and Mathew Macfadyen version, his Darcy wasn’t what I imagined when I read the book. But, i loved Knightley’s spunk as a young outspoken Lizzy. I liked Wickham in this version too and adored Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennett and Brenda Blethyn as Mrs Bennett. But, Colin Firth is definitely who embodies Darcy for me. It was like he stepped right off the pages …That’s the beauty of reading. We can conjure up who we imagined when we first read the novel. But I agree in that there’s no way can this new light hearted version of Persuasion can compete with the 1995 version. That was a masterpiece with superb acting.

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  6. I’ve always gone to books to get out of funks. It’s been hard since I’ve struggled to read as consistently as I used to. I find that YA books, especially romance usually help. They are shorter and more fun than some of the other stuff I read.

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  7. Well, I’m annoyingly optimistic all the time, so I can’t say I’ve ever really been in a funk…at least not one that has lasted more than a few minutes. I will say, I am currently reading Danya Kukafka’s “Notes on an Execution” and, as disturbing as it is, it’s a really gripping read thus far.

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  8. I’ve been having the same problem with books lately. I’ve been picking books that tell a story of people’s lives, their friends, etc. These stories start out like they might be nice, but before I know it there is all this disfunction in the family… NOT what I want to listen to. I like audio. Anyhow, I’m still trying to find some interesting books that would be nice (whatever that should be).

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  9. Yes, I reach for books for emotional realignment. But not fiction books, instead books about the art of living. I became a Stoic in high school and that has been a solid foundation for my life. One recent book is A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irving. Also, exercise always lifts my spirits. I do it while streaming videos, so I’m always on the lookout for ones that touch my heart and make me happy.

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  10. Books are my escape and, while I’m absorbed in them, with luck, I will become re-aligned. But I don’t read to become re-aligned, as I suspect the pressure on the book would become too much for me to be fully satisfied by it.

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  11. It’s weird that you mention that you’re in a funk, so am I. Getting outside in nature helps. It’s as if the trees, birds, and flowers help me realign. There are authors who draw be back to myself like Nora Ephron, Madeleine l’Engle, Anna Quindlen, etc. but most of the time I just have to ride it out. I hope you’re feeling better. Hugs, C

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