Just as reading a riveting book can transport you out of your daily life, dedicating yourself to a particular challenge can help you find a sense of freedom even within hardship. In her memoir, The Living Mountain (the author Robert Macfarlane’s chosen text for an online pandemic book club), Nan Shepherd describes how a mountaineer finds an escape in the effort of climbing, which “absorbs and so releases him entirely.”
The essayist Annie Dillard celebrates weasels for their single-minded devotion to life’s necessities, an attitude that the author Melissa Febos says can not only help conquer an addiction, but also encourage good writing. Indeed, the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro once beat a creative block by immersing himself in the process of writing, releasing himself from worries about quality or outcome.
Sherman Alexie’s fiction and poetry wrestle with his experience growing up on a reservation, which he feels both trapped him and shaped him. And Bruce Springsteen’s memoir reveals how music helped him control a sense of chaos in his life.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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What We’re Reading
The exquisite pain of reading in quarantine
“Complete absorption in an activity can engender a feeling of abandon, a shedding of the world and self and time.”