I’m a sucker for a book with a happy ending. I prefer it when things work out the way they’re supposed to, and by “supposed to,” I mean the main character gets their heart’s desire, and any and all problems are tidily resolved. Perfect happiness and a perfect life that lasts forever after the last page is turned.
I know it’s not reality: I don’t care. I like the way I feel when everything turns out all right for the imaginary people I’m invested in.
I read books all the time, both fiction and non. I enjoy the latter well enough and learning new things is a thrill – pineapples are berries – but when I’m down, I want to escape. I want the warm fuzzies you don’t get when reading about generals and war. I don’t need real-world endings in my escapism, thank you very much.
And they lived happily ever after until Sabrina found out Steve had lied about the state of his finances and Steve found out Sabrina spent two hours every day on a “maintenance” beauty routine that cost four-hundred dollars every month which is when the daily bickering started.
The books I read range from one-hour series romances to multi-hour, complicated efforts but they all have satisfying resolutions in common. I read other works of fiction but generally prefer my choices over the “should” books that are doing the rounds.
I like romance. I don’t even mind if it’s the main plotline. Love stories make me happy and the romance genre gets zero respect despite amazingly skilled writers, a function of sexism I’m not getting into right now. Even the mysteries and horror stories I choose have love connections and relationship subplots. I want people and relationship stories, even if they’re set amidst zombie carnage.
I keep many of the books I read. I like libraries but owning the stories I love feels important to me; books are not on the list when I Marie Kondo my house. I like to revisit them, some a multiplicity of times. They’re old friends. I don’t need to reread the whole thing, just the chapters leading up to the happy dénouement.
I used to be embarrassed by the number of books I have around the house, but with e-books came the solution. No one knows the little tablet you’re toting has hundreds of books stored inside. Technology is amazing although you don’t technically own the e-books. Rather, you have lifetime access, until you die or the company goes under. Fingers crossed for Kindle.
I went through a time in my life where the only books I’d read were dark and ugly. True stories or fiction, the books hurt; they were about misery and dysfunction and pain. I thought they’d be an outlet for the darkness inside but reading them made things worse. As it turns out, counterbalancing with light is a better choice. Wallowing in the pit, even a fictional one, isn’t helpful.
When things in my life seem especially dire, I turn to the shelves with the oldest of the books – meaning the ones I’ve had the longest. I have some that are technically older including an enormously dictionary I bought at a garage sale, but the shelves I focus on when I’m in distress are those that hold the children’s books.
For me, there’s no better therapeutic escape than rereading the stories I loved as a child. The ones I kept also end in happily ever after – that preference was apparently formed in the womb. I have four or five shelves dedicated to the kids’ books, including fantasies like The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper and Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet, and stories featuring strong young women like L. M. Montgomery’s Anne books and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie collection.
I find rereading meditative. I sink into the words and drift away from the world. I’m no longer myself, I’m in the book, unaware of things around and inside me. I’ve always read this way; the book takes over and I vanish.
I used to be ashamed of my tastes. They seemed simple, wrong, like so many of the things I do. I’d hide the books I loved; I worried people would look down on me for my fiction choices. This is an advantage of recovery and age. You start to worry less about what other people think. At least, that’s the plan.
I like books with a happy ever after. Sue me. There’s enough dark and ugly in the world. I don’t need to seek it out when I’m doing something I like.
What do you use to escape from the world for a while?
Updated January 11, 2021.