True confessions: I was once a nerd. At least, by eighth-grade standards. In fact, I was a kid who loved to read and spent large chunks of time holed up reading, escaping the angst of adolescent life through the pages of books. (Please note, however, that I did NOT wear glasses.)
The summer before eighth grade my family moved from Connecticut to Michigan. Which meant I was the new kid, with braces and pimples, who knew no one, and had nothing to do until school started. And I mean really nothing to do. But our public library was six blocks away, and it was air-conditioned and sometimes had snacks.
I don’t remember exactly what I read that summer. I’m guessing it included some Judy Blume; some Mary Stewart, whose historical fiction and romance novels were favorites then; as well as Booth Tarkington, whose “Penrod” books my Dad loved. I’m sure I re-read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables for the thousandth time. I know I read Immortal Queen by Elizabeth Byrd, and became temporarily obsessed with Mary, Queen of Scots.
All my reading that summer didn’t shoot me into the ranks of the wildly popular when school started that fall. But it did provide me with a sense of perspective that made adolescence slightly more bearable. I knew all kinds of people and ways of looking at things existed, because I’d read about them. I knew people made bad decisions, and good decisions, and were sometimes heroic and sometimes shameful and sometimes proud and sometimes modest and sometimes all those things together. I knew history repeated itself, that good guys didn’t always win, that life wasn’t fair, that throughout time and the world there had always been people in far worse circumstances than mine, and people who had it better.
This is why book blogs matter. Because all of us who love reading—who may be introverts or extroverts, insanely happy or in despair, athletic or clumsy, beautiful or not-so-much—have, through the common bond of reading books, the chance to know we’re not alone. Reading books lifts us out of the daily worries over kids, the mortgage, school, deadlines, angry bosses, roof repairs, and laundry. It launches us beyond ourselves, in spite of ourselves, which is really the point of life, isn’t it?
This year alone, I’ve spent time on the isle of Guernsey, worked as personal shopper at Barney’s, visited an estate in the Hamptons, felled trees in a Norwegian forest, and attended a tone-y private prep school, and that’s just in the books I’ve read. I’ve done even more through the reviews I’ve read on countless book blogs—blogs that made me smile in recognition, shake my head in disagreement, and add to my TBR pile with an immediate click.
I’m not calling book bloggers nerds. Bookworms? Maybe. Kindred spirits? Definitely.
Kathleen McCleary is the author of House and Home.