When I was a kid, I used to build cozy little nests around our house. I’d drag the comforter off my bed, pull pillows and blankets off the couch, grab some snacks and whatever book I was reading, then set up camp in whatever odd nook I could find: the closet, the landing of our stairs, the floor of my room or, my favorite, a cramped triangle of space on the carpet behind our living room couch. I’d pull the couch away from the wall, snuggle in and, using the sunlight streaming down from the window above, read there all day. In the evening, as the sun sunk below the trees, I’d inch my book closer and closer to my face to see the words. And I remember, so vividly, the feeling I’d get when my mom would flick on the lights, startling me out of my dark cocoon. “How’s that?” she’d ask, and I’d be overjoyed because it meant I could keep reading.
It took me a curiously long time to come around to reading, but once I did it was like a switch was flipped. I couldn’t stop. Book after book after book. I kept a list of everything I read in a secret drawer, took it out every once in a while just to look at it. I romanticize those years now, when books could whisk me away so easily, make my soul sink and sing in equal measure. Reading was such a consistently visceral experience.
Enjoying a book is different from living for it. In my adult life, I’ve had trouble finding books that take me to that intense place. Maybe I’m too cynical or distracted or maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but most books don’t nestle into my head and heart the way they did when I was younger. I miss my desperation to pause the real world and get back to the story at hand. It still happens every once in a while — The Goldfinch will forever by my most genuine, full-hearted recommendation — but it comes along so rarely.
Incredible books are out there, though, aren’t they? They have to be.
What is your most genuine, full-hearted recommendation? What’s the last book you really had to force yourself to put down? The one that could actually get you in bed early (but kept you up late)? It doesn’t have to be recent or hip or well-known. It just has to be so good you never wanted it to end.
Update: We’re planning to compile your answers into a Goodreads list here, so keep your eye out.
Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.