I can get so involved in a book that I lose touch with reality, so much so that coming back to real life feels more like reading a list.

  1. Make dinner
  2. Tidy up
  3. Grade papers
  4. Then you may go back to your life––in a book.

I can always tell when things in my real life aren’t sitting right with me because I have trouble getting into a book. I start them and don’t finish them. I wander a bookstore and don’t come home with anything. It feels uncomfortable and makes me angry. Like, “Listen life, I need my books! So you better wise up and get easier.” Picture me shaking my fist at the sky.

Recently I’ve been working hard to make some changes in my life and it’s clearly affected my reading life. I’ve picked up and put down no less than five books over the past month. I’ve started watching my nemesis––TV.

While visiting my mother this weekend, I sat in front of her bookshelf desperate to find something that worked for where I was, in this moment, in my life. Then I saw it,

A book that I, myself, had purchased for my mother to read. Mostly I bought the book because I went to high school with the author and wanted to be sure his book sales increased, but when I looked at its book flap I got that weird tug that happens when I’m about to go into a book life that matters. So I took it home and I can’t stop reading it. Even when I’m back in reality, I’m thinking about Lilliet, the main character who is fascinating and holds a bit of every girl within her––or maybe not. I won’t speak for all women, but she’s got a whole lotta me in her, that’s for sure.

Alex Chee is a master at adding historical research in at points where you need to orient yourself to the geographical location (sometimes Paris, sometimes Minnesota, sometimes New York) and what was happening globally at the end of the 19th century in the world of Opera. His details about clothing and cultural expectations pull me in even closer. I want to know more. I make mental notes and wish I had better strategies for tracking my reading thinking. For once, I am thrilled that there are over 500 pages. I want to stay here a while. I find myself telling time by the chapter or page. As in, “I will start dinner after page 148.” Then I hide my book pages so my children, who are starving at this point, won’t see that I’m on 157.