A woman’s purse is often an endless suitcase of items deemed as must-haves. If one were to do a “What’s in her bag” feature on me, they’d find a revolving door of items, with one constant: A book. I always have a book in my bag, and whenever I have a minute, I’m opening it up to get my reading fill. 

I’ve read in the back of Lyft rides, at bars alone, waiting for the opening act at a concert (I know!), in bed, in libraries, in bookstores and even while walking (those are the best ones!). 

I read anywhere from five to eight books a month. My genre of choice is memoirs, often on love and loss and grief and new beginnings, biographies, thrillers and contemporary literature. What I choose to read on any given day depends on my mood, the weather, the time of year and what advanced reading copies various Canadian publishing companies so generously send my way. 

So what is it about the written word that captures my mind, heart and time? It’s the ability to learn and grow. It’s to be kept on my toes. It’s to take on the lives and traits of characters in these books. It’s to open myself up to the realities, the fantasies and everything else the world has to offer.

I’ve used books to get over breakups. To deal with grief after the passing of my mom. To realize I’m not alone. To escape in. 

A summer or two ago, I decided to create an Instagram handle to share the books I’m currently reading as well as what’s on my radar, a sort of show-and-tell for book lovers. Using Instagram in this way is referred to as #bookstagram and there are a ton of hashtags to use to easily access similar accounts. I somehow stopped posting on this account, in lieu of sharing my weekly reads via Instagram stories on my personal page, but with summer in the air it’s time to start the conversation again. 

With summer comes the sense of freedom. The idea of time. Long weekends at the cottage or at least off work. Days that linger until night thanks to the ever-shining sun.

Books unite us in a similar way that binging the newest Netflix show does. They are a conversation starter. Sometimes talking about books with others allows us to get to know them on a different level. 


Once I start a book, my love becomes devoted to it – often reading it front to back in one sitting, unless I have to take breaks to write, or be somewhere, in which case I know one is right next to me in my purse for any spare moment. I keep pencils and stickie tabs in my hand while reading, ready to mark up the pages when a sentence or idea resonates with me. 

The work of Elin Hilderbrand has kept me company on the beach twice annually, in both the summer and then in the winter. The late Nina Riggs memoir, The Brightest Hour, helped me cope with the loss of my mom and what her battle with cancer was like (since my mom passed away when I was 18 and I wasn’t aware of what was really happening, care of her brave face, head on with an expiry date on life.) Works by Canadian poets Najwa Zebian and Rupi Kaur helped me realize I’m not alone in experiencing toxic relationships and have motivated me to come out on the other side thriving. I can go on and on (and on and on) with authors and books that have not only changed my life but have made my life.  

 

I often catch myself reorganizing my various shelves to coincide with the seasons. Whenever a friend is going through Something, whatever that Something might be, I’m quick to offer them a book, the same way a doctor would prescribe medicine. 

And so, I challenge you, dear reader, to pick up a few books to get lost in. Sure, while other avenues of entertainment seem easier and more effortless, I guarantee you by simply reading, you can become a better version of yourself, and more open and empathetic to others – even if the book is just a gateway into water cooler conversation. 

Authors
Jen Kirsch

Jen Kirsch is a freelance writer, columnist and on-air personality, known predominantly for her work on dating and relationships. She also covers everything from culture, parties, society and lifestyle. She writes for numerous publications both in Canada and internationally and regularly contributes to Toronto Star, with bylines in ELLE, Women’s Health, Canadian Living and FASHION