This past summer, I zipped right through Paul Doiron’s books. I had read the first in his series featuring fictional Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch, “The Poacher’s Son,” in the summer of 2019. So that means I’ve now read eight of Doiron’s novels, including the most recent, “One Last Lie.”

Reading is getting me through this terrible time.

I also read in the summer, as I mentioned in a previous column, Eric Larson’s “The Splendid and the Vile.”

In my role as a school librarian, I sometimes display posters declaring what I am reading. In March, I was in the middle of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall.” School closed, and the poster remained up for months. I, however, continued to read.

I soon finished Mantel’s fictional trilogy about Thomas Cromwell: “Bring Up the Bodies” and “The Mirror and the Light.” In total, 1,771 pages.

I have been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books.” Neither can I. In predigital days, I always carried an “emergency book,” so I would never be without reading material. Now I have my iPhone, with its Apple Books, Kindle and Nook apps.

For a high school English class, I wrote an essay about what were then called “problem novels.” Now, we would just call them “realistic young adult fiction.” An example would be “Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones,” about teens dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

In that essay, I wrote that reading about others’ mistakes discouraged me from engaging in risky behaviors, such as shoplifting, drinking, taking drugs and, yes, hitchhiking. I would not run away — I knew that never ended well.

At 14, I predicted reading was going to save me. Little did I know that 50 years later, it would help me survive a pandemic, a mad president and a grueling election season.

I try to give myself an hour a day to read. With the slowing down of life due to COVID-19, I sometimes read for two hours at a stretch on a weekend afternoon. Then, I might go back to my book for another 40 minutes after dinner.

Mystery is my favorite genre, although I usually have a nonfiction book going at the same time, and it is usually something to do with history. And I do recommend all the books I’m listing here. I abandon books I’m not enjoying. Life is too short. If I have finished a book, that means I liked it. Some more than others.

Doiron’s books were especially meaningful to me this summer. My husband, Paul, and I spent many days taking day trips to scenic spots around the state. I often thought of Bowditch traveling down, as he calls them, the peninsulas — to Port Clyde, Popham, Pemaquid Point.

TaraShea Nesbit’s “Beheld” took me back to the Pilgrims of 17th century Plymouth. Holiness was an abstract concept for some of them.

As it is for the subject of Bob Woodward’s “Rage.”

Louise Penny is a favorite. I read her latest, “All the Devils Are Here,” last month. (Now there is an apt title for the times.) In this one, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is in Paris. I’m a Francophile, so I was happily transported.

I then went on to read a book that had been sitting on my to-be-read pile. M.L. Longworth writes cozy mysteries set in Aix-en-Provence. Yes, I was back to France with “The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche.” I wondered if that was the latest book in the series, which I’ve enjoyed. It wasn’t, so I then read “A Noël Killing.”

Ruth Ware, one of my favorite authors of psychological thrillers, came out with “One By One,” coincidentally (or maybe not) also set in France. I then continued, in quick succession, with British author Lucy Foley’s thrillers, “The Hunting Party” and “The Guest List.”

Some people are having trouble reading during the pandemic. I understand how hard it is to concentrate. As writer Sophie Vershbow writes in a piece for “Vogue” magazine, “It’s as if there’s a fog cast over my brain, preventing the words from seeping in.”

I began my super-voracious reading months ago, when I was working from home and not really talking to anyone except Paul. When I later learned other readers were experiencing reading issues, I was surprised I had gone entirely in the other direction, as stress normally distracts me.

Maybe it is that I read only what I want to read, and what I enjoy are page-turners. I find meaty nonfiction calms me because I have to concentrate on it.

The new Tana French book came out last month and, of course, I jumped right into “The Searcher.” I loved the Irish setting, fascinating characters and their compelling relationships. Then, I recommended it to others.

If I needed any further proof of the solace that books bring me, it was this past weekend. For the first time since February, I browsed in a bookstore. As soon as I opened the door to the shop and smelled the coffee brewing in the cafe, I knew I was home.

With books.

 

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].


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