Welcome to Life Advice for Book Lovers, Lit Hub’s advice column. You tell me what’s eating you in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll tell you what you should read next.
I am an avid reader of Lit Hub and I just had to take advantage of this new column. I love to read, I am also a semi-collector of books. I used to collect first editions and rare books but can no longer afford it and got burned when trying to sell some. But that is beside the point of this email. I am bored with my life. I am single, work in an academic medical library and I am so bored. I live in the Midwest where the dating pool is as big as a drop of water in a crack in a sidewalk. Nobody reads anymore… I have tried online dating but it is awful, plus my interests and hobbies sound boring to outsiders. Plus, I don’t want to have children and I’m not sure about marriage. I own my own home (condo) and I have a dog (want to rescue a million more).
My dog is the brightest thing in my life. I have friends, I have depression and anxiety, I just want to meet someone new. Someone to go out and do things with. As I get older, I embrace minimalism more and more. The only thing I spend money on is books. I have TV shows that I watch and wish I had the relationships they do (Grey’s Anatomy). I have always dreamed that I would have someone in my life that would love me outside of my family.
I am 40 btw. With enough therapy I realized that it is not all me. So long story semi short—I am just bored, so very bored with my life in general and looking for love.
The typical thing one asks advice about…….looking forward to your book recommendation.
– Bored in Nebraska
Dear Bored In Nebraska,
Firstly, I just wanted to tell you that you were the very first person to write in, so thank you for your enthusiasm and, more importantly, your vulnerability. Have you seen Fleabag? There’s a heartbreaking line in there that goes: “Love isn’t something weak people do.” To be ready to offer it, to seek it as you are seeking it, takes a heck of a lot of courage. Courage that most people don’t have. (So, add that on top of your condo and your dog, and it sounds to me like you’re already winning.)
When I read your letter, the book that came immediately to mind was Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. It’s like she wrote it specifically for you: it follows Fanny, a librarian at a medical research institute(!) who feels a similar malaise about her life and who longs to find the one that brings color to it. Listen:
I have been aware of a boredom, a restlessness, that no ordinary friendship can satisfy: only an extraordinary one. I have grown tired of my lot, I suppose, and have wanted strenuously to change it. So I write, and I take a lot of long walks, and I ferment my ideas, and if I am lucky they come out as vivid as I should like real life to be.
I’m not saying our heroine has all the answers, because she doesn’t. (Who does?) But she does make for excellent company. I figure, if you can read a book with a character as charming and witty as she is, and find her in a spot that feels familiar to you, it’ll be a kind of soulmate meeting.
Might I also be so bold as to recommend my favorite children’s book, Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O? You’ll know why.
I had a baby a few months ago and… I pretty much haven’t read anything since. I need something to read that a) will hold my attention and b) isn’t so dumb or badly written that I, a literary snob, will hate it but also c) is not so smart and mellifluous that I, a sleep-deprived new parent, will lose focus and resort to watching old episodes of Veronica Mars while the baby sleeps. If it helps, in my old life, I liked postmodern trickery, fancy prose styles, and weird girl books. Help me, Dodo!
Too Tired to Read
Dear Too Tired To Read,
First of all, huge congratulations on your baby! (And sorry for your TBR pile.) I’m sure people have said this to you before, but I sincerely hope you’re not beating yourself up over not reading during this time, when the whole reason we read is to dedicate ourselves to a different life for a little while—something you’re doing full-time.
Because you’re a self-described literary snob, and because even in sleep-deprived stupor you used the word “mellifluous,” I’m going to recommend Lore Segal’s Lucinella, an insightful and funny takedown of the literati from 1970. (Nothing has changed.) It kicks off at the Yaddo writers’ retreat (where else?) and follows its targets back to New York City as they fail and fail to make meaningful progress in their work and life. Our guide is the titular Lucinella, an obsessive, anxiety-ridden riot.
I’d say it checks off your postmodern trickery and weird girl book requirements quite nicely. At 154 pages, this novella is a slender gem that you’ll no doubt breeze through. It’s got short sections and wide margins and a lot of dialogue that’ll make you feel like you’re in the room. But remember—these are rooms of writers so you’ll be equal parts intrigued by their insular gossip and ready to leave them when your baby demands it.