Back at the beginning of the 2020 lockdowns, a reader wrote to thank me for the few hours of distraction my latest book had provided (love to get those kinds of e-mails!). She concluded by saying “You are an essential worker, too.” I was deeply touched and flattered, then somewhat astonished as more letters echoing that sentiment began to come in. We all know what an important part of our lives books are, but essential on the same level as groceries and UPS deliveries? I’d never really thought about it before.
As the global crisis wore on…and on…and on, I came to understand for myself just how essential books, and the people who write them, are. They provide more than an escape when life spins out of control. They provide engagement in times of isolation, friends in times of loneliness, hope in the face of despair. They give us something to look forward to when it sometimes feels as though there is literally nothing else.
I recall a conversation many years ago with the librarian of our small town. She agonized over having to go to the county commissioners in an effort to persuade them to give her money for the library that might otherwise go to essential services like the fire department or EMTs. “I know they’re saving lives,” she said, “but I’m trying to save the things that make life worth living.”
I’d like to take this opportunity to salute all the books (and the writers who created them!) that made life worth living this past year. Like most of you, I read many more than can be listed here, but here are a few of the ones that really took me away from it all, the ones that were hard to put down and that I couldn’t wait to get back to—in other words, the perfect pandemic reading. Maybe you’d like to check some of them out!
Devoted by Dean Koontz
No Exit by Taylor Adams
The Last Flight by Julie Clark
The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
The Rumor by Leslie Kara
One by One by Ruth Ware
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
Camino Winds by John Grisham
Which essential books saved your sanity this past year?