I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I got to the bottom of the page. I could feel my heart beating faster. Deep, calming breaths were necessary, but difficult. I flipped the book open to the back flap to see the author’s photo. Nobody I recognized. I read her bio. She lived in a distant state. There didn’t seem to be a connection, yet somehow she knew my circumstances, my story, my feelings. She knew me and understood.
Shock gave way to comfort as I realized I wasn’t alone. My experience wasn’t unique. I was normal, whatever that is.
When a book speaks to you exactly where you are, it’s a powerful experience.
Although we are all unique individuals, there is a basic, human need for connection, and a deep desire to be known, understood and accepted.
Books can be the net that gently gathers us together into a community, and sometimes it’s the life raft we cling to.
Whenever I’m struggling with an issue, I head to Barnes & Noble, especially if there is an urgent need to have the equivalent of first aid in my hands. The physical act of holding a book by a respected authority trumps all other self-soothing strategies to manage anxiety.
Books, have saved my life on more than one occasion.
I can sit at the feet with people who are knowledgeable about a topic of interest. I can listen to those who have walked the road I am surprised to find myself traveling. And I can be inspired by others who have triumphed and grown through circumstances like my own.
The series by Louise Bates Ames titled “Your One-Year Old”, “Your Two-Year Old”, etc, guided me through the early years of raising my daughter, and the book “Crazy Time” by Abigail Trafford helped me stay afloat in the turbulent waters surrounding my divorce. I felt validated by “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and my desire to handle conflict more productively was compassionately informed by “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst. And when my sister and I found ourselves having to find care of our mother, “A Bittersweet Season: Caring for our Aging Parents, and Ourselves” by Jane Gross, was both helpful and comforting.
Yes, books have been faithful companions and trusted friends through many of life’s seasons.
I prefer to own these books, because I like to tab and mark them with notes in the margins, arrows between connected ideas, underlining and asterisks for particularly meaningful passages. I reread when I need a dose of encouragement or when feeling alone. That’s what works for me. I’ve also used some of the strategies listed below, and perhaps they will also help you get the most out of life-saving books:
- After reading a book that is particularly meaningful or helpful, don’t pick up another book right away. As readers, we often close one book while opening another. Let the information sink in for a few days. Go back and reread passages you’ve tabbed or marked.
- Check the bibliography to see what books were used in the research or referenced in the text. Books the author found helpful might also be worth checking out for additional information on the topic.
- See what other books were written by the same author. Sometimes authors have a “platform” and have written several books on a topic.
- Look for the author’s website which often has related blog posts and comments by other people dealing with the same issue.
- Utilize the book recommendations or suggestions provided by Amazon and Goodreads on your topic for additional titles of interest.
- Journal your thoughts or what you’ve learned after reading the book. Sometimes, as we write, our thoughts and feelings are revealed and we make more connections.
- If you belong to a book club, suggest it as a selection. Then you can get the insights from other readers that can broaden your perspective on the topic.
- Often books that speak to us have key concepts or quotable lines from the text. Write these on a Post-It or index card and place them in places where you will see them often. These snippets can help you enact strategies you’ve learned or remind you of thoughts that can help you through the day.
There is a plethora of non-fiction titles that cover just about any topic imaginable. It is rare to come up short when searching for a book on a topic, especially if it involves life circumstances and relationships. Help is out there.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Which brings me to the bible; the ultimate guide whenever we’re engaged in struggle, whenever we feel alone.
Reading the bible seems daunting to many people, and for years, it did for me as well. But I’ve learned that it contains many, many verses that provide peace and comfort in times of trouble.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
I keep a small book on my nightstand that I open frequently. It’s titled “God’s Promises for Your Every Need”, and it organizes select bible verses by topic. For example, there are verses for when you are feeling angry, frustrated, disappointed, or fearful. There are verses for when you are seeking stability, clarity, strength, peace, and comfort. It’s a quick way to be reminded that when you think struggles are insurmountable, or that nobody understands, God says otherwise.
I also truly believe that God gives talents and messages to people so they will share them for the benefit of others. Over the years, many authors have guided, comforted, encouraged, and inspired me.
When a book finds its way to you, and speaks to you exactly where you are, it’s hard not to feel God’s divine hand, holding yours.
More posts on books and reading to come! Check back some time this week, for an updated Reading page to see the titles I’ve recently completed or are currently on my nightstand. I will be updating the page monthly from now on.
What books, fiction or non-fiction, have had a significant impact on your life?