When I first started working in books, I felt like a fraud. Mostly because I was one.
I have a lot of dear mates who share my deep, unconditional, total infatuation with reading. And these mates love to talk about how much they read when they were children. It’s very sweet. They always had their silly little noses in silly little books and it’s simply no wonder their bookshelves are collapsing under the weight of their literary prowess now that they’re grown. Yes, I am a surly bitch about this. I was not one of those kids and wish desperately that I was. I wasn’t even one of those adults until relatively recently, but I’ll explain that in a sec.
It causes me real physical pain to admit that it was only four years ago that I read my first grownup novel. There is absolutely no shame in this if you don’t or have never read very much at all. But when so much of your current identity is tied to banging on about books at work, on social media, and to anyone you can force to listen, this is a bit embarrassing.
Back then I was solely reading non-fiction, mostly memoirs and gender studies texts after discovering feminism and becoming unbearably political in the first year of my undergraduate degree. It was around this time I started dating a boy (who is now a man – hey, N) and after a couple of years that were equally blissful and back-breaking, we called it a day. This was my first breakup as a proper adult person out on my own in the world and – quelle surprise – it sucked. He is beautiful and kind and we stayed close friends but absolutely none of that matters when you’re suddenly learning how to navigate the world without one of your limbs.
Anyway, one day I’m fucking around being a sad girl at home and the podcast I’m listening to starts raving about this particular novel. I’m due to fly home to NSW for Christmas in a few days, so before I leave I waltz down to my local bookshop and pick it up, thinking I’ll give fiction a whirl because dense social theory was, unbelievably, not taking my mind off this miserable heartbreak. It would be an outrageous lie to say I didn’t spend most of that trip in a disgusting pit of tears and wine but I also spent it compulsively reading. It was like I had been whacked over the head at twenty-one years old with a passion for something I’d later regret spending so many years without.
This was also the start of a very cute and normal phase that I went through of buying a one-way ticket to the UK whenever life got remotely sad or hard. I’d move out of wherever I was living, sell everything I owned and loudly proclaim to my mum and my friends that I was moving overseas, inevitably returning to Melbourne mere months later. Coronavirus has stopped this particular trend but I have found plenty of ways to remain incredibly melodramatic.
With years behind me and the wonderful gift of hindsight, I can now see that the way I began tearing through novels was simply an extension of this impulse to escape. As a baby child I ran away from the chaos of my upbringing through the finest television Nickelodeon had to offer. When I was old enough to literally escape my house through my bedroom window in the middle of the night, I did that. Then the UK thing. I spent an entire year of a different relationship buried in the pages of novels because I couldn’t face the reality of another love failing. Even now, the easiest way for me to see my fucked mental health from the trees is when I pick up a new book immediately after the last page of something I’ve just finished, or when I start walking to work with my head down in a book, narrowly avoiding tripping or falling or running into things by glancing up less often than I should. Running away is my greatest kink and, as hackneyed as the saying is, books have given me a place to escape to that is much more economical than flying halfway across the world.
So, in a twist that will come as a shock to exactly no one, I made books my job. In my last year of university I started working at a small bookshop and later pushed my way into a position at my dream store. I found a home there, one that I hope to have in some form forever, surrounded by incredibly smart and funny and interesting people who definitely all read lots of books as children. It has seen me through far more than any workplace should have to – multiple family crises, another gut-wrenching heartbreak, various Melbourne lockdowns, more hangovers than I can believe I’ve gotten away with, and it has brought me here, to this blog.
If it wasn’t already glaringly obvious, I love waffling on about crap. Especially when it’s directed straight into the ether. This will definitely be a place for me to continue rambling and I cannot promise to keep the garbage to a minimum. Mostly, this will be a platform for me to write about books and recommend the ones I’ve loved. It would also make me revoltingly happy if this became a space for others to talk about books, too, so I am very keen to give a corner of the blog to any bookheads who want to contribute (I’m picturing one of those shared co-working office spaces with lots of houseplants but on the internet). Email manicciggiebookgirl[at]gmail.com to have a yarn with me.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for visiting. And a giant thank you to my very tall treasured friend for creating this tiny bit of the web for me. More words soon. x