Books: My Favorite Medicine!

by Monique Liddle

Bogerd, Escha van den -Woman reading in bed.png

Woman Reading In Bed – Escha van den Bogerd
from by Bas van Houwelingen

Books. They have saved me from boredom, as a child, on those incredibly loooooong trips. You know the ones I’m talking about. Whether as a child you remember asking, “Are we there yet?” Or as a parent now telling your children, “If you all don’t stop teasing each other, I’m goin’ to pull over and we’re going to sit there until I say so.” Books have entertained me from the time my parents read bedtime stories to me until the present day. Books have educated me, led me to places where I have longed to travel to, made me cry and frustrated. Essentially, books have been the mainstay of my life since I could speak my first words: “Maman.”

Why I Read

When my multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia (TN) started deteriorating, despite surgeries and medications for the TN, it turned out that I had the next six years to read because it was essentially all I could do because my pain and MS were barely tolerable. Reading maintained my sanity. I read anything: the classics, interesting vampire stories (yes, I read the Twilight series. Good, but not my favorite), historical fiction, travel memoirs, biographies, history, Shakespeare sonnets, etc.

But I didn’t read simply because I had the time. I read for many reasons:

  • Temporary escape from my own reality;
  • Realizing my situation could be worse;
  • Fantasizing;
  • Learning at my own pace;
  • Helping me to learn to cope with pain and difficult times. (Books help me experiment with ways of coping other than my own methods);
  • Living vicariously through others
  • Strength – especially books about strong (physical, mentally, emotionally) women
  • Humor – Some of the vampire books I read were hilarious like Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore or Charlaine Harris’ series on Sookie Stackhouse (which are so different and better than the HBO series True Blood);
  • Length of book – This allows me to not only escape into another place, but also to become part of the characters’ lives for a while. I miss the characters when the books ended.

Some Books I Read While I was Sick: 

Barefoot Sisters Southbound by Lucy Lechter & Susan Lechter (480 pgs.)

Brefoot Sisters Southbound2

Two sisters travel the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. And they hiked about 90% of that trail in…You Guessed It…their bare feet!! Smile This book was a huge escape for me, and a way to live vicariously through these women. I was very outdoorsy before I got sick: trail runner, hiker, camping, canoeing, snow-shoeing, cross-county skiing, etc. Also, it was a dream of mine to hike the trail with my dog Akea. The book also was also quite amusing with odd people and creative trail names (ex: Blue Skies, Bugbiter).


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1,488 pgs.)

Les Mis bk cover2

Many of you have probably seen the on-stage production. But 2 hours does not translate into almost 1,500 pages! There are NUMEROUS subplots. I didn’t read this book in college, and reading it while I was sick was a perfect opportunity. I could take as long as I wanted and discover for myself what made this book so important. Also, I have always loved European historical fiction. I got sucked into the lives of all the characters and Hugo’s understanding of how society shapes people’s lives. This book reinforced some of my own values and challenged others. This is truly the classic that this book ought to be.


The Iliad by Homer (476 pgs.)

2The Iliad bk cover2

I had some trepidation about reading this long, very old poem. However, I was so familiar with the characters and the story from excerpts, I read during high school, and movies. (You know, the movie Troy – hunky Brad Pitt! Need I say more?) Winking smile I read this book as slow as I wanted and studied the parts that I wanted to study. I found help, online and through a video lecture series I rented, to help understand the subplots. This book, also, was an escapism book: it was during a fantastic time when the gods and goddesses interfered with the lives of men, the men had super-human strength, and the women were just as powerful.


Letters And Papers From Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (448 pgs.)

Deitrich Bonhoeffer bk cover2

I studied theology in college and in my first graduate degree and, thus, am familiar with Bonhoeffer. He was a German theologian during the 1920s-1945. Bonhoeffer was first detained in a prison in 1943, and then moved to the Flossenburg concentration camp because he was believed to be involved in an assassination attempt on Hitler. I have always wanted to finish this book about an amazing man and his beliefs in social justice. Reading his letters, I realized that my situation greatly paled in comparison to his and most other people in this world. He was murdered by the Gestapo by hanging on April 9, 1945 at the age of 39.


Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey to Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa. (303 pgs.)

Beyond the Sky & the Earth bk cover2

In this travel memoir, Jamie is a young writer who wants something different before she attends a doctoral program in English. So, she applies for a teaching job in Bhutan, located halfway around the world from her home in Toronto, Canada. She ends up in a small village with zero modern amenities and in a culture in which Buddhism infuses every aspect of life. Jamie (and I) were so amazed by the tranquility of the land, the openness of the people, and their joy of living. This book let me escape to another place that seemed to be in another time, and also reminded me of my values of peace and loving kindness – including accepting and being kind to my body, which I believed had betrayed me.

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (472 pgs.)

Let the Right One In bk cover2

A young girl, Eli, and an older man move to town in the dead of winter, in the same apartment complex as Oskar. Eli and Oskar become friends quickly: Eli the vampire, that is! They become each other’s protector, especially Eli over Oskar from the bullies. The older man that lives with Eli, serves as Eli’s helper (you’ll have to read the book to see how he helps her!). You’re probably asking yourself, “She reads both Bonhoeffer and scary vampire books? What the heck?” Yes, I do like a good vampire book – I warned you. Winking smile Despite Eli’s paranormal state, she still is a strong female character who can protect herself and the lives of her friends, and kills everyone else who stands in her way. How can you not love it?

Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (546 pgs.)

Time Traveler's Wife bk cover2

This book is written creatively from the perspective of Claire and Henry at different ages in their lives. Henry has the ability to travel through time. However, he cannot control when he travels, for how long he travels or when he will return to the “present.” You can imagine the complications this adds to the lives of these two people! I adored this book filled with adventure and a beautiful love story between Claire and Henry. I read this book for the escape it provided and also for the fantastic adventure of a love story.



The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. (1,276 pgs.)

Count of Monte Cristo bk cover2

Talk about the perfect novel! This story has everything: love, mystery, trickery, adventure, social satire and more! This was another literary, mid-19th century book I had wanted to read; but definitely not in a course where I would be rushed through it. I wanted to savor this book – and that’s exactly what I did! Being whisked away for over 1,200 pages, with amazing characters and sub-plots, I couldn’t help but reflect on themes of: revenge; and how malicious actions against others and self-blame affect a person and the people around them. So much happens in every chapter, because the Count is intelligent, scheming, and creative – and bent on absolute revenge.

Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. (592 pgs.)

Discovery of Witches2

Witches, vampires, demons, and Oxford, England? Oh yes! This one is a fascinating tale in which young Diana Bishop, Ph.D. tries everything to escape her family heritage as a witch; and at the same time searches for a powerful book that can change the world of humans and the paranormal alike. What I loved about this book was all the literary references it had, and that it takes place in my favorite city, where I have family: Oxford. This was an absolute joy to read, with a fantastically strong woman at its center and amazing other creatures – I mean characters!


  But Wait! There’s More…

The book I am reading now is Defending Hope by Natalie Proudfoot. Natalie has breast cancer and just had her mastectomy on Monday, April 30th – the same day she became a published author with this book. Before she was diagnosed with cancer, she wrote this book in which 13 year old Hope struggles with a grown up problem: her father being sick with cancer. I just received my copy of Natalie’s book on Friday the 4th and I just finished chapter one! I’m looking forward to reading some more during lunch. Half of the proceeds of the book will go to theAmerican Cancer Association.

Defending Hope bk Cover2


I am a member of Goodreads. School If you, too, are a member, I would enjoy getting to know you and seeing your reading list.

Thumbs up I wonder – What you do to get through challenging/troubling times in your life? If you like to read, what are your favorite books? I read for many reasons, as you read above. What are some of your reasons for reading? School

I can’t wait to hear from you!



{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia Tomiak May 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Monique, Great post, as I LOVE books! I read for many of the same reasons you do- to learn, escape, laugh. Reading helps me relax at the end of the day, and a great book keeps me thinking. My favorites include The Time Traveler’s Wife (I think we should warn everyone that it’s bittersweet-I cried), The Help, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Fault in Our Stars (also sad), and my new fav, The Night Circus! I’ll find you on GoodReads and thanks for all of your input on the MNINB FB group! Nice highlighting of your call to action ;) .


Monique Liddle May 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Hi Julia –
Reading is definitely another way to relax. Almost every night before I go to bed, I read a bit to calm to break my emotional ties from the day. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is on my To-Read list. I saw the movie with Gregory Peck – Superb! Since then, I have always wanted to read what I’m sure is a masterpiece. I have been hearing a lot about “The Night Circus” – Ah yes! From your blog. :) It does sound quite attractive and fantastic (in the true sense of the word)! I will have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.



Muddy Kinzer May 6, 2012 at 12:36 am

I loved this because I love books! I’ve always loved reading, and I’ll read almost anything, except right now I’m on Stephen King probation. Too scary! Although some of his books I count among my favorites. I love reading something new that I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds, and I love slipping into my old, familiar favorites with the crinkled pages and the loosened spines. Reading for me is a dear old friend!


Monique Liddle May 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Hello Muddy!
A fellow bibliophile! What joy! Your description of books reminds me of the smell of old bookstores and large public libraries. There is something magical about the physical book in addition to the words on the page and the story they contain. Thanks for connecting with the BITR community. Right now, as part of a book club, we are reading Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I think you could read that one – not too scary!!!



Natalie May 6, 2012 at 8:24 am

Wow, Monique, thank you so much for including “Defending Hope” on your list! I have not read very many of the books you listed, but am glad they have provided you comfort and relief during difficult times.
I myself have three books that I reread each year, almost religiously, for their effect not only on my psyche, but in the way they inspire me to put together a sentence: each with a loving hand and full-impact for the reader:
“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver
“I Know This Much Is True” by Wally Lamb
“A Prayer For Owen Meany” by John Irving
If you haven’t read these, I highly recommend you add them to your list of book therapy!
Again, Monique, thank you for opening up and sharing!


Monique Liddle May 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Dear Published Author Natalie –
It was my pleasure to feature you in this post on Books! You deserve it as a person who is undergoing a big bend in your own road of life. You are probably reading more books now that you are recovering fro, your surgery. I appreciate you visiting the blog and website, and hope you can find a community here in the future. My next post will be my first guest blogger who writes about how she recovered from losing her husband. I’m sure the BITR community would love you as a visitor one day!! :)

I have books that I re-read as well: “Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings” by Pema Chodron, a book of Shakespeare sonnets and “Classics of Indian Spirituality” which includes: The Bhagavad Gita, The Dhammapada, and The Upanishads – all ancient Indian spirituality texts.

Wally Lamb writes some difficult stories – but it has been a long time, since I have read one of his bks. I think It was “She’s Come Undone.” It was probably 15 years ago and really shouldn’t count. I will have to check your suggestions.



Veronica Roth May 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

That’s the trouble with books…so many to read. At the moment there are about 20 around my bed. I usually always read at bed time. Sleep is difficult at best of times but absolutely can’t manage without a book!


Monique Liddle May 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Hi Veronica –
Books, everywhere. And the more we read, the more books we find we want to read!! I’m like you in that I have all these books around me – except mine are on the bed with me! Not 20 – but 10 or so. I feel comfortable with them around, which may be how you feel. I like to go to bed early so I can read in bed for an hour – like you need to read before sleeping. But “early” is getting later and later every day. :)



Lynn Obermoeller May 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

They say reading makes a better writer… and once I’m finished with my own reading list, I’ll check out some of your favorites. Thanks for sharing. I hope the pain you’re experiencing lessens every day.


Monique Liddle May 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Lynn –
It’s my pleasure to share with you books I am reading. I believe that you get to know more about a person through their books. And you are absolutely correct about the relationship between reading and writing. How can we become better writers and better able to communicate with our readers if we don’t know what to read ourselves and what other people are reading.

I’m so pleased you came to visit BITR and will be back again soon!



Laura May 6, 2012 at 10:54 am

Some of those books sound like they’d hurt my smallish brain! I do have the discovery of witches and time travelers wife on my tbr list, tho. I’m a little afraid of books that are bittersweet, because I can become too deeply invested and end up depressed! :( I also love Sookie and agree about true blood, I had to give that up, it was kinda gross. Have you read the Stephanie Plum series? Talk about hilarious, I laugh til it hurts. Some people complain about long running series that don’t have a lot of character development, but I just love the escape!


Monique Liddle May 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Hi Laura –
Some of the books were a challenging read. But remember, I could read them as slowly as I wanted. I hope you do get to “Discovery of Witches” soon. Then again, what I may like is not necessarily what you will like. I have not read the Stephanie Plum series; I will have to look them up. Although, I have a hiatus on my book money, because I have so many books I recently bought that I have not yet read. So, it will take me about a month or so to get to the Plum series! The books sound like they are a lot of fun, though. Thank you for the recommendation.



Tony May 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Hi Monique.

I suppose I read for similar reasons sometimes. Actually, I have never seen nor read Les Mis. You know there is a good book I like called “Books that will Change your Life” by Rufus Fears… he was a professor that taught at IU. There, he talks about Homer’s Illiad, Letters from Prison, The Gospel of Mark, Orwell’s 1984, and a lot of classic pieces. …most of which I have NOT read b/c I am not as scholarly as you. Needless to say, it is really good. I recommend that one to you.
Hugs! Thanks so much for blogging –Tony


Monique Liddle May 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Hi Tony –
Thanks for your comments. I have the video lecture series based on the book you mention by Rufus Fears. Fears does the actual 30 minute lectures for each of the 60 books (I think there are 60 bks). Since, I know you Tony :) , I also know that you read a lot. It would be great to hear some of the books you read and to share them with the other blog readers. I would love for you to comment again and give your own suggestions.

thanks –


liz May 7, 2012 at 8:34 am

Yes, books have been important in my life, too. One book that changed my life was one that I read when a friends 2 week old baby died. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner is an oldie but goodie…..Learning to Fall by Phillip Simmons is a memoir by a man diagnosed with ALS and is very inspirational just like your story, Monique. Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh , the wise and loving Buddhist teacher and peace activist…The World According to Mister Rogers (by Fred Rogers but compiled by his wife)…
These are just a few…and reading books to help me cope with the sudden death of my husband was my personal therapy…reading the words of other widows and thinking “that is just how I feel!”…thanks for sharing your favorites…I will be looking for some of them.


Monique Liddle May 14, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Hi Liz –
Thanks for reading this post on books, which many people seemed to have enjoyed. You have read quite a few books that helped you to cope with the death of your husband several years ago. It seems we both found some solace in reading about how other people cope with difficult times, in genera,l and how people cope with the specific needs we have/had. I, too have read Tich Nhat Hanh’s book – very good and so helpful! I’ll have to look into the others you mention and may also put them on the resource page. Thanks so much for sharing your books with us, Liz!

take care –


E.B.Pike May 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

Hey Monique! So glad we’re already friends on Goodreads. :) You’ve got a lot of great books on here.

It’s always interesting to hear people say what rekindled their love of reading. For me, it was when my husband had to take a second job and I spent every friday and saturday night home with the kids. I had to do something when they were asleep!


Christine Steeds May 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

Lovely to hear from you if only via the blog. I share your love of books but sadly I have so little time to read these days. I have certainly read a number of those on your list- Bonhoeffer “Cost of DIscipleship” -makes one’s own faith look pathetic. “Les Meserables” Victor Hugo which I read while still at school – like all the classics I read at that time- I never blanched at tackling 1500 pages then! Wonderfully written with a great story and Christian message. I also read Margaret Mitchell’s book “Gone with the Wind” when I was 12- My father had to write to the school giving his permission for me to borrow it from the library as it was deemed unsuitable for one so young! I couldn’t put it down and it is the only book she ever wrote, I think. You will have seen the film with Clarke Gable and Vivienne Leigh- but she didn’t have green eyes liek Scarlett! . The book is even better- great love story against the back drop of the American Civil War.
“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis which I read at University and “Who moved the Stone” by William Morrison- both convinced me of the Christian truth and palyed a big part in my “conversion” to the Christian faith. I subsequently read many more of C.S.Lewis’ books on Christian theology and faith.
“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte and “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte her sister. I recently re- read the latter having not read it since early teenage years and was just as captiviated by it. Our English language is so beautifully used and expressed. i used to like the link with Yorkshire too.
There are so many others but maybe this will suffice for now. I have certainly read anumber of others mentioned by your friends ” The Posonwood Bible” – very interesting novekl on missionary zeal in the Congo. “When Bad Things happen to Good People”- similarly read by me after our baby died 32 years years ago .
Yes books can certainly feed one’s spirit as well as mind. keep reading!


Mary Lou Dickson May 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Monique, I think it is great you have connected with a true passion which also gives you comfort from your health issues. A well written book can transports us to far off lands or other worlds, lets us in, makes us care and saddens us when it is finished. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites, I see some titles I need to check out.


Susan Cooper May 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

I love to read. When I read your list I smiled. It looks very much like my own. When reading many of the books on your list, as well as many others, it reminds me of unwrapping a gift very slowly. Antcipation builds as the guft is almost revealed.


John McCullough May 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm

I love a good spy novel or thriller before bedtime. I save the high-brow business reads for lunch time at work. Great post!


April M. Galloway @AMelodyGalloway May 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I too love to read. It is my escape hatch whenever I am dealing with difficult times and my relaxation when things go well. My tastes are as eclectic as yours. My father introduced my to Science Fiction when I was only in second or third grade. I discovered Perry Mason and biographical novels when I was in 4th and 5th grade. I have at least a half dozen books on my bed at any given time and every flat surface in the room has a stack. Lately my favorites are detective series and spy novels. However, I’m currently reading “Song of Slaves in the Desert” by Alan Cheuse as research for a section of one of my novel ideas.


Jay Holmes August 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Hey! Did you just call spies “low-brow”?


Claudsy May 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Monique, I have to hand it to you. I so wish I could spend some time reading all of those volumes that I’ve placed on my “Must Read” list. So many of your list here were dealt to me in high school. Having a classical education helps with some things. Les Mis I had to do in French; required for my language minor. The Greek poems and plays all came my way, and I loved each one a bit more than the rest.

If you get the chance to read the original Chaucer, do it. It will takes some getting used to since it’s written in Middle English, but once you get the rules down, it’s a great read. For a modern bit of non-fiction that will suck you in and then dry you out, try Salt by Mark Kurlansky. I learned as much about world history from that as I did about the mineral intself. That book saved me in the physical sense. Nobody realized that my body was carrying too little of it. I figured it out on my own because of the info inside Mark’s book.

I’ve so enjoyed your site here, Monique. I’m so glad that I’ll be coming back. Keep up the good work.


Lynn May 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I loved A Discovery of Witches! I’m already on the waiting list at our library for the next book. I’ll have to check out Let the Right One In; it sounds interesting!


Meena Rose May 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

Hi Monique,

Great post. I read for many reasons too. A lot of them are called out by you. Now, I find myself rereading my favorites as a writer. Really getting into the gritty of what moved me or captured. A dialog I had enjoyed. A super effective flash back and so on.

In April, I put together a cento based on Maya Angelou’s poems. I find these words quite apropos for all of us with a bend in our road:

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a woman
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

For the full cento, you can go here:


Monique Liddle May 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Hello Meena! –
I am so grateful that you shared this cento, you created based on Maya’s poems, with the other readers and me! I adore Angelou’s writing. As I read this portion, I have a distinct picture of a phoenix. But the “phenomenal woman” insertions create a softness to the cento. I look forward to reading the rest of it.

Reading as a writer is different than the way we used to read before. Now, we look at the characters and how they transform during a story, and ask why the author write this story at this point in his/her life – and all the other reasons why we write, the characters we choose, and other things we think about as we write.

As one writer/blogger to another, I am very pleased you enjoyed the post!



TLC @TLClarke_TLC May 31, 2012 at 9:56 am

This is a great post! I love to read for relaxation. It clears the mind and transports me to less hectic pace.


URL June 2, 2012 at 4:37 am

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August McLaughlin June 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm

A post after my book-lovin’ heart. ;) I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through various times in my life without stories to keep me company, distract me from my worries and stimulate excitement and comfort simultaneously.

Thrillers have captivated me since before I knew what the word/genre meant. Les Miserables is one of my favorites, too—it’s even thriller-esque! ;) Mary Higgins Clark and Patricia Cornwell helped me survive high school math classes. lol


Actually Mummy... June 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm

What a lovely blog! I love your outlook on books – you are so right that reading can be such a consolation. My daughter would read 24/7 if I allowed it, and I remember being the same at her age. You said you read a lot while you were ill, does this mean that things are better for you now? I do hope so


Bula Maupredi June 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

I like this website very much, Its a very nice situation to read and receive info .


Carlos Berenson June 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Sweet website , super pattern , very clean and employ pleasant.


Lanny Vidler July 2, 2012 at 2:55 am

I just want to mention I’m all new to blogging and absolutely loved your web blog. Almost certainly I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You surely have superb writings. Thanks for sharing your webpage.


Monique Liddle July 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Hi Lanny!
Welcome to the blogging world! It’s an exciting time to be a reader because there is so much variety. Before, I started blogging, I read tons of blogs and was impressed with the blogs themselves and also the bloggers – they were very approachable. I hope to live up to my mentors! :)

I’m pleased that you are enjoying Bends In The Road. Thank you so much for your comment about my writing. I spend many hours in front of the computer writing and also reading about writing. Stephen King says that writing is almost like telepathy between the writer and the reader. So, I try the best to write so that you, my reader, know what is in my mind. Isn’t that a magical way to think about writing?

Have fun reading new blogs. If you need some ideas, you can visit the blogs I mention in my latest post. Another site with great blog options is Love New Blogs. This blog highlights a blog post from new blogs & has a blogroll (a list of blogs that the blogger likes to read).

Thanks for visiting!


Jay Holmes August 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Hi Monique. I rare ly read novels but the Count of Monte Cristo was hard to put down. I think that Iliad is very informative. In particular it’s interesting to see so many behaviors that we tend to associate with modern man playing out in ancient Greece. If you have not read the Odyssey I highly recommend it.


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