Did you know that you save me? You do. In strange ways I suspect we all save each other. But this week was a recovery week for me after a particularly brutal bout with depression and so I spent the week doing what my shrink recommended…reading.
It’s odd. Reading is an escape. It’s a medicine. It’s a luxury. It hurts and heals. And there’s something about spending the day wrapped up in books that can feel like the perfect antidote while also feeling impossibly decadent. But I’m not good at “decadent”. Especially when there is laundry to be done and emails to be answered and deadlines and expectations. But this week I gave myself permission to read the days away, and whenever I felt guilty I reminded myself that this was work, in a way. I was reading to find the perfect book for next month’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. And the book club sustains our book store, keeping the rent paid and our team busy, so it’s work I’m proud of even when it feels unfairly lucky to be able to pore through dozens of stories to imagine which ones you would love…to imagine reading them with you.
When I was a kid we didn’t leave the house much because gas was expensive and so was everything else, so most of the summer I’d get a library book and a thermos and go find someplace outside with a little shade to read for hours. I still remember where I was when I first read certain books. My grandmother told me she was the same when she was young. When the farm work was over she’d get on her bike with a book and a rifle (I asked why the gun…she seemed to think it was a ridiculous question) and ride until she found a good tree to read under. In fact, my grandmother inspires many of the Fantastic Strangelings book picks. My mom is also a big reader but she reads mainly biographies. My grandmother, though, was like me. She read dark and strange and magical stories and she would pretend not to notice when I would steal her copies of Stephen King or VC Andrews or Ray Bradbury or Agatha Christie. I always brought them back. Then last year I got them all for my library when she moved into a memory care clinic for dementia. She has a new Stephen King book that she reads the first paragraph of and then forgets. And reads again. And again. Even in the darkness (until the darkness inevitably falls) she still looks for escape. And every book I have ever selected is one I know she’d read and love if she could. I read them for her. I read them for myself.
All this week I escaped the house like I did when I was a kid. Just to the backyard, to an old cloth swing hanging from our oak tree. It smells a bit like mildew and sun. The cicadas are so loud it drowns out the sounds of everything else. I carry a book and a large glass of ice to keep the heat from being too overpowering. And I read.
I read about time travel and witches and magic and heroes and rebellion and loss and joy and struggle and intrigue. I reread this month’s book so we could discuss it today and I read next month’s book and I read so many others and it was precisely what I needed. And you were there too, even though you might not have known it, because as I read I thought about what you would like and what you would think and what was too dark and what was too much to share. And I thought about the things I’d say in the quiet of an actual book club and whether I could say those same things online. And I think I can. Because this club is more than just me and you…it’s my grandmother (who I speak to in my mind) and so many other people I see and remember as I read these stories that bring me back to my own memories. And I don’t think I would so easily dedicate this healing time to reading if I didn’t have a reason.
Thank you for being that reason.
Today I’m opening discussion up here and on the Fantastic Strangeling Facebook page if you want to talk about July’s book, Mexican Gothic. (Definitely the darkest book I’ve ever chosen but wasn’t it amazing?) As always, no rush and no pressure. The discussion stays open for whenever you want it and most people prefer to lurk so no worries. I’ll put my comments on the book in the comment section so there aren’t any spoilers.
And, I’m announcing next month’s book (if you’re a paid member you already got an email from me all about it and about a special zoom meeting so check your email if you haven’t seen it) and it’s a bit different from my other selections but I really liked it and I think you will too.
Alex Landragin’s Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut—a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.
On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence.
The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations.
With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy.
I think you’ll really like it.
Also, I sometimes pick out bonus book selections if you need something extra to sing you to sleep. If you’re interested you can order them from us or from your local indie bookstore. Last month it was Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. This month it’s Lobizona by Romina Garber. It comes out next week but you can preorder now. It’s YA (young adult) and it’s sort of like an Argentinian Harry Potter with werewolves. Also, it is a wonderful book to read and then give a young reader because it deals with tons of important issues, from immigration to racism to feminism to LGBTQ+ stuff and I immediately devoured it and gave it to Hailey to read herself. Also, the cover is amazing. Just look at it.
So stick around if you want to discuss Mexican Gothic or if you want to just talk books. And membership is currently open if you’re ready to join the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. You are always welcome.
Thanks, y’all. I super crazy love you.