Books as Friends: A theory

I relate certain periods of my life to a book I was reading at the time (some people have this with songs). In emotionally difficult times, books provide the perfect way to take me away to a world that is not my own. And sometimes, that’s just what is needed.

As a result, I tend to feel an emotional attachment to the actual physical book. Here I’ve spent hours and hours with these characters, I’d feel a bit ashamed if I just gave the book away after I was done. I save them. Treasure them. Wait for the perfect person to loan the perfect book to. Because truly, if I sat and talked to someone for a few hours, I’d consider them a friend. Why is it different because they are on paper?
Here are a few books that I regard as dear friends:

The Bridges of Madison County –While studying abroad in Paris, my Step-Dad insisted that I visit the most famous English bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare & Co. He was right; the bookstore itself was a magical place. And since packing books didn’t quite fit my 50lb. per suitcase limit, I bought this book when I arrived. And it was wonderful. I often read in my studio apartment, glancing up occasionally to check out my view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance and taking in how deliciously lucky I was.
Islam Explained – I bought this book because I didn’t feel like I knew enough about Islam and I have a constant fear of being considered an ignorant American. It was also fairly small and therefore, not too intimidating. This is why I selected it to accompany me to the top of half dome in Yosemite National Park. The hike itself is one of the most magnificent (16mile) hikes in the world. I went with friends and, having hiked it several times before, I know that I’ll go to the top but I won’t go up the actual dome (think sheer rock, no thanks). 
So while my friends ventured up that last part, I sat on a log on the top of the world and read this book. The author wrote it in question and answer format as if he were talking to his own daughter. It was very helpful in understanding the basics. The thing is, I should have gone up the dome. But fear got in my way so I was thankful I had this book to keep me company while I waited for their return.
Fortune’s Rocks – This was a Goodwill find, in Maine the summer after college. I was working at a summer camp in mid-coast Maine, overlooking the harbor. I didn’t appreciate the job at the time, as the camp was understaffed and we had more kids than we knew how to organize and plan for. But really, I should have let loose and just had fun. I should have embraced my last summer as a kid. Little did I know that I would spend the next summer in an artificially air conditioned grey box overlooking a scenic parking lot.
I distinctly remember that this beautiful story took me away, just when I needed a break. One kid-free day, a friend and I canoed out to a small peninsula to lay out and read. In all my camp glory (read: dirty unwashed hair and no shoes), I laid on the warm rock and devoured this lovely story.

The Help – Obviously anyone who has read this agrees that it is fantastic. It was just my luck that I found it on the “take one, leave one” shelf at the beach house my family rented. It was so good that I feel minimal guilt for leaving a far inferior book. Seeing this book on the shelf takes me back to beach week. The sand in the binding is proof that it was well loved.
Memoirs of a Geisha – I bought this at and English bookstore in Prague. Prague was the last weekend trip I did during my study abroad program. In all honesty, I had fun but I was pretty much ready to go home. I read this when our feet just couldn’t explore anymore, laying in our dingy, questionable hostel. 
Bergdorf Blondes – I bought this book at Goodwill because it looked like a quick, fun read. It kept me company when I had just moved in to my first apartment, solo. Living alone can be quite lonely (not sure why I didn’t see that one coming). A good read helps lessen that loneliness. 
Firefly Lane – I received this book as a gift from a dear friend, after he saw me eyeballing it at a Barnes and Noble. He wrote the sweetest inscription in the front cover and I will cherish it always. When he bought it, he had no idea that a month later I’d get my heart broken to pieces. For a week, I spent all my extra time when I wasn’t crying, diving head first into this moving story. It took me away from my life and to this day, I’m not sure what I would have done without it. It is truly one of the greatest gifts I’ve received and I could never part with it because I am so grateful for its presence in my life during that rough time.
So what do you think? Have I lost it? 
Do you have a book that you’ll cherish because it helped you through a time in your life or was with you at a poignant moment?
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  • I have read FireFly Lane quite a few times and it still gets to me! It was given to me by my childhood best friend who I have now lost touch with….Ah, appropriate, huh?

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