The Reading Cure

One of the bookshelves Dustin built for me, described over at The Morning News.

A few years ago I checked myself into a hotel with a book. It was 2006, and I was on my way back from my first year teaching at Amherst College and headed to a Christmas celebration with my family. I misjudged the timing of my trains and planes and instead of making an uncomfortable connection, I decided to get an inexpensive hotel room in Boston. When I arrived, my plan was that I would just go into the hotel and read, alone.

I’d read Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, if you’re wondering. When she checked into the hotel with a book I felt only an intense wish to do the same. Here I was finally, making a deep pause in between what I’d been doing all semester and what I was about to do.  The hotel I chose was the Hotel 140,  which felt like a secret hotel, located on several floors upstairs inside 140 Clarendon Streeet—in the lobby it had the appearance of a normal office building.  I set my bags down, opened the window shades. It was almost sunset, late afternoon.  My grades were in. I pulled the book out, Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, opened it and began.

I read through the night into the next morning, taking myself out to a dinner. I recently found my menu from that night, at Petit Robert Bistro, nearby, which I wrote down in a diary as it was a perfect meal.

Moules Mariniere
Duck confit with grilled sausage
Glass of Vouvray
Glass of Bordeaux Superieure
Glass of Cognac, Pierre Ferrand, Selection des Anges

In a new essay up over at The Morning News, I talk about some of my reading habits and ways I tried to address a decline in my pleasure reading, or, as I like to put it, how the internet remapped my brain, and an e-book re-remapped it—and brought me back to books in general.


  1. I really enjoyed “I, Reader.” I’ve experienced similar feelings and find myself hesitating to ask for physical books for Christmas, yet refusing to ask my wife to gift me a Kindle book (if that’s even possible).

    Your comparison with news-media consumption vs. reading a novel also rang true to me. I’m actually working on Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir at the moment and find that it seems to immunize me against a lot of the panic that can set in when I browse the headlines.

    Wonderful prose, thank you.

    1. Thank you. It’s a fairly selfish device, is the thing, as it is now—it’s hard to “give” books to people when they’re e-books. Only recently is it possible to lend someone an e-book. And giving books, and lending them, these are big pleasures of mine.

  2. Thank you. I’ve also felt similarly about many of the things you’ve described, especially reading the news as a way to search for the inciting spark that launches one into writing.

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