The Comfort of Books

image of book & coffee cup

I work as a librarian in Balbriggan library.  In April 2019 I was diagnosed with a serious illness which meant spending quite a lot of time in hospitals, where I found myself waiting around a lot of the time.  Hospitals and treatments can be very difficult to cope with and I needed some way of transporting my mind to another place so I could get a break from it all.  Staring at my phone and the hospital walls just made the time go slower. I sought refuge in books.

I have always liked reading but I have never actually needed it and since having children I haven’t had the time. Then, all of a sudden, I had time for reading. There’s a silver lining to every cloud.  It surprised me how important having a book with me everywhere I went became.  Reading became, not just a leisurely pastime, but a therapy for me and a therapy I think libraries can share with people to help them through hard times. 

An elderly friend of mine once said to me that she never felt lonely once she had a good book to read and I think once you build up that relationship with books you never lose that ability to find comfort in the pages of a good read. I don’t think we’re kind enough to ourselves, maybe Covid has thought us to be kinder to ourselves and hopefully to others. That kind of human compassion lifts us all in the darkest of times. 

We can make the most of being restricted to our homes too. I discovered I am far more resilient, calm and positive than I ever gave myself credit for.  These are such important attributes to have and, because of what I went through, I discovered them - another silver lining I would never have found had I not been ill.  I think some have found these times tougher than others, it’s a very personal experience.  I do hope that by sharing what has helped me it can help someone else. 

It’s so hard to pick a book for another person, it’s a very personal choice, but we all love a good recommendation and I exchanged many of the ones below with other patients, medical staff and friends over the last year or so.  I read a lot of books but, to be honest, I can’t remember most of them. I don’t know whether that’s from the treatment or my age!! 

I’ve picked a few enjoyable reads and authors who appeal to lots of different types of readers.  Graham Norton is one of those. He is easy to read, his books are set in Ireland, sometimes a darker shade of Ireland but not too grim, if you know what I mean. 

Another Irish author who writes page turners is Liz Nugent and, of course, I had to read Sally Rooney’s Normal People and really enjoyed it, though my college days were far less romantic, eventful or glamorous! Margaret Atwood became the talk of the town again after the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, I did enjoy Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin too. Kristin Hannah is another go-to author. 

I find there are times when I need a book that’s easy to read and not so much of a commitment, a page-turner that you can get through in a day or two. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was one of these for me, as is The Other Hand by Chris Cleaver, The Dry by Jane Harper and one I think everyone was talking about- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineThe Woman in the Window by A.J Finn was another enjoyable read. 

From reading reviews, I have gathered a pile from the library on my reading shelf which you might enjoy too, most are relatively new;


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitker
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
A Little History of the World by Gombrich
The Harpy by Megan Hunter
A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Strange Flowers by Dónal Ryan
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Firewatching by Russ Thomas
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 


I hope you have enjoyed this blog and that, if you need it, you might find comfort in a book. I know I did.  


Theresa, Balbriggan Library