#FridayReads: Read A Book Day 2018

Yesterday was National Read A Book Day.

Well, Kelly, you might ask, did you read a book?

Well, I might respond, is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Do humans need oxygen to survive? Are we still trapped in a hell dimension?

Which is to say, of course I read a book.

I’ll say a bit about the book I read, but first I want to draw your attention to two delightful essays on books by two fantastic authors. The first is this Twitter thread by Chuck Wendig (you might remember him from the whole gay Star Wars character thing right before The Force Awakens came out, and also that he gives zero fucks about your bigotry).


It’s a long thread, which you should read, but here is my favorite tweet:

Ah, yes. So true, Chuck. So true.

But on a more serious note, books are magical portals of escape! It’s like having a space ship in your pocket. Or a time machine. Or a jet. Or all of these things, and then some.

And more than that, books are vitally important repositories of knowledge, wisdom, and stories–you know, those things that we’ve been making up since the dawn of time? Those things that form our worldviews, our mythology, our religions? Those foundational elements of our very society and humanity?

Neil Gaiman, whose work I’m 100% confident saying saved my fucking life in high school, wrote an essay on the importance of books, libraries, and librarians. Artist Chris Riddell illustrated it, and you should read the whole thing, but I want to put the following image in a frame. Or get it tattooed on my arm. Something.

Words by Neil Gaiman. Pictures by Chris Riddell. Click through for the full essay.

The text in the image reads: Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. We all have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is, individuals are the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

I was a miserable teenager. Depressed. Self-harming. Not *quite* suicidal, but man did I think a lot about suicide. Multiple English teachers took me aside to have conversations because they were worried I was going to hurt myself. They were right to worry. Thankfully, I had books. Books saved me. Those teachers saved me. Libraries saved me.

Books are fucking important, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they probably voted for our dipshit fuck president and you should probably run very far away from them

So back to what I was reading on National Read A Book Day.

Yesterday, I finished a re-read of Batman: Hush, which could easily go on my list of ten most important comics. I don’t remember the exact issue I started buying Batman month-to-month, but it was somewhere in the late 500s, and the Hush storyline started with #608, so it came pretty early in my Batman issue reading life. I’d read lots of Batman trade paperbacks before, but this was the first (Batman) storyline I remember reading piece by piece each month.

Reading Hush now took me right back to being an awkward goth teenager, convinced I was in love with a boy who certainly didn’t feel the same way, writing bad poetry about death, and escaping it all by submersing myself in novels and comic books.* I was prepared for my memory to not live up to the reality, but actually Hush is a pretty damn solid Batman story. It’s got everything a good Batman tale should have: Batman/Catwoman romantic tension, action-packed fights, a mystery that keeps you guessing, and Alfred’s dry humor.

Even back then, my bedroom was set up around my books. I had a bunk bed with a futon on the bottom. I hooked up a clip on desk lamp to the top and had pillows and a blanket to make a proper reading fort. The bookshelves in my room were cheap Ikea things, the actual shelves bowed from the number of books stacked onto them. I kept sturdy bags in my car for the sole purpose of filling them with library books whenever I had an excuse to be near the library

I remember reading Hush on that futon, my latest haul from the comic shop in a paper bag next to me, the issue spread across my lap. Thirty-two pages never took me long to read, but when I finished Batman, I had Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman. And then Fables. And then Star Wars. And after I’d gone through my monthly comics binge, I had David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan Saga, and Tolkien, and the volumes of Sandman I checked out of the library over and over.

Clearly, the whole book thing stuck, because now I write them, and teach other people how to write them, and work in a bookstore, where I get to talk about books all day.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Miss Migraine: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety by Tamar E. Chansky

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on September 4, 2012.

Freeing Yourself From Anxiety, Tamar ChanskyTitle: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety
Author: Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D.
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0738214832
List Price: $16.00

Freeing Yourself From Anxiety isn’t the kind of book I look for (as the possibility of it featuring explosions in space is right around zero). But my library, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, recently released a smart phone app that lets you download and listen to electronic audio books on your phone, among other cool features. As an unabashed book junkie, I have been, pardon my French, using the shit out of this app.

The app’s only flaw is that it presents you with a list of every audio book currently available for check out and download (2018 update: This is now fixed). You can search for a specific book, but can’t, say, browse for science fiction books. So one day, Dr. Tamar E. Chansky‘s book came up on the first page of the long list of books available for download, and I thought, what the hell, stress is a huge migraine trigger for me, maybe this will help.

Although I felt the book could have been organized better, the information and strategies for dealing with anxiety, stress, and “negative” emotions more than made up for that shortcoming. At the book’s heart are four steps to help the reader overcome anxiety. These steps work both in the moment of anxiety and as a daily practice to help reduce the overall incidence of anxiety.

And here is the book’s real strength: Chansky doesn’t simply provide direction for calming the mind and body down when anxiety grips both, but direction and ideas for daily practice to train the body not to overreact to ordinary stressors and stimuli. Examples include instituting a time for regular, deep breathing to calm the body, keeping a gratitude journal to remind us of good things, and creating positive moments of joy (like playing with a pet) instead of waiting for them to simply happen.

Throughout the book, Chansky focuses on “possible thinking.” She actually advocates against false positive thinking, because studies have shown that telling yourself things are okay when they are not is just as bad as thinking negatively. Instead, she suggests re-focusing on reality: What is the actual situation? What do you truly believe will happen? Then, we can prepare ourselves for that situation instead of becoming stressed about out unlikely possibilities.

Admittedly, I haven’t been as dedicated in applying these strategies to my life as I should be (again, because stress is a huge migraine trigger for me), but even in my casual application I’ve seen a reduction in my stress and anxiety levels, at least in the moment. Just making myself pause and ask, “Kelly, do you really think that will happen?” is enough to calm me down. This book is overflowing with strategies, so I imagine almost every reader could find several that would work for him or her.

If you suffer from migraine or another chronic illness, and stress or anxiety trigger symptoms — or if you suffer from an anxiety disorder or simple depression — this book will provide you with something to fall back on when it feels like the world is slipping away from you, fast. I would, however, suggest reading a paper copy, because I often found myself wishing I could go back and re-read sections that I liked, and that’s a little more difficult with an audio book. This is an unpaid, unsponsored review.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

Miss Migraine: Migraine sun vs. migraine moon

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on August 11, 2012.

Migraine moon revolving around Person earth

Sketch by Kelly Lynn Thomas, 8/2012

I’ve hung this sketch on my wall, right next to my computer, to remind me that migraines don’t control my life: I do. If you’d like to repost or share it, feel free to. I only ask that you give me credit as the “artist” and post a link back to this site. And of course, if you’d like to print it out and hang it on your wall, I’d be completely flattered.