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Aunt Helen's tray

I’ve been drunk on a certain book for two weeks––so drunk that it’s been a discipline (yes, a discipline) not to read it. To extend the experience, I’ve divvied it up in small bites, consumed between other books. For a little while, this book has transformed real life into a rude interruption without my beloved (but fictional) people. Who could blame me for wanting to read it again, just for the companionship?

If I do read it again, how will I justify the time? Call it saturation. I want to be and do and think like the characters in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Their constant hovering over tea has upped my consumption and even lured me into an obscure and long-neglected domestic chore: I polished a tarnished silver tray—a family heirloom—to enhance the ceremony of “taking tea” (I would never say that in real life!) the British way.

Lacking any silver polish, I used this recipe, How to Clean Silver, to polish my tray with ingredients you probably have at home. Zero elbow grease! It’s a soak job, so you can return to your reading sooner.

Can anyone suggest a book where the characters vacuum their carpets, dust their furniture, mop the kitchen floor or scrub the bathroom, all while making it seem irresistible? My house needs a good cleaning, but I’m so busy reading and pretending.

Granny's napkins

These hand painted napkins belonged to my husband’s Granny.

I can’t help wishing that everyone could be afflicted by one of reading’s sweet heartaches: the characters you love can not love you back. Why, then, do I love fiction so much?

At the risk of being tiresome and redundant, here are three reasons to love fiction:

The heartache and companionship inside fiction makes us better people.

Good novels demand that you love your non-fiction friends even more.

You may recruit The Busy and The Reluctant to the private, deliberate wound of reading. More readers, less small talk.

Did you know that reading has spawned a genre all its own? It’s called the bibliomemoir. Author Joyce Carol Oates wrote a lengthy article in the New York Times Book Review that serves as a short guide to recently-published bibliomemoirs, including books like The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else, by Christopher Beha and The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir Read in Real Time, by Phyllis Rose. One of my personal favorites is Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

A lesser-known attribute of reading: it’s meant to be enjoyed (at least partially) as a corporate experience. That’s why book discussion groups still thrive. Here in Indy, one man’s passion for reading gave way to Read26Indy, a challenge to all of Indianapolis to read 26 books in 2014. You can convert your private experience to a corporate one by attending monthly discussions and participating via Twitter using #Read26Indy.

In my next post: private endeavors that really should be shared in groups, at least part of the time.

Has a book’s inspiration ever pressed you to act on some hidden impulse like drinking tea? Do tell!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.