I can always tell when life gets overwhelming by the amount of time I spend with my nose in a book. You can bet that if there’s a lot going on under the surface, or even right there on top, I will spend as much time as possible curled up on a couch, bed, or any horizontal surface with a book in my hands.

As a child, I escaped the tortured world of early adolescence by devoting myself to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series. As I said to my husband the other day, the longer and more complicated the series, the more I can immerse myself in it, and the better the escapism. Thus science fiction and fantasy made up most of my early reading career.

Later on, during winter breaks in college, I would hole up at the parents’ and consume an average of two or three books a week.

In grad school, I read the latter half of the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series for the second time, as they were the only books I had with me in London. Despite the fact that I was studying for ten hours a day, nonetheless I had to spend the last waking moments of every day with Jamie and Claire. (Again, the longer the saga the better.)

When my dad was in the hospital last summer, I reread one of my favorites of all time, Folly by Laurie R. King. A seemingly dark book for such a time, yes, but compelling and absorbing enough to shut out all other nonfictional darkness.

I even read on our honeymoon, recovering from the frenzy and emotional exhaustion of the previous weeks by immersing myself in Philippa Gregory’s Elizabethan England.

To my mind, one of the biggest treats life can possibly contain is a long, unmolested period of time in which I have the freedom to do nothing but read. When I’m upset or have a lot on my mind, when the world just needs to be shut out for a while, books provide me with a safe, self-sufficient universe. For once, I can worry about someone else’s story without being the one who has to propel it along, unlike the mystery of my own life. Events happen, decisions are made, people love and die and save the world, all with no more effort on my part than the movement of my eyes and occasionally my hand. Truly, it can’t get much better than that.

Tonight, as I put down my third 500-page novel in the past two weeks (not as good of a rate as I hit in college, but close), it occurred to me that I am reading an inordinate amount for someone who just got married. Shouldn’t I be swooning with love and passion instead of reading about other people’s fictional lives just like I did when I was a lonely, confused teenager?

Perhaps, yes. But just as my body is now succumbing to the virus that I’ve felt hanging around for the past month or so, my mind is similarly letting go of the tension that kept it going throughout the summer. Within the last six months, my grandmother passed away and I planned and executed a gorgeous wedding. Along with all the emotions associated with these events, I managed to balance an often demanding job (or two) and growing family obligations.

Whew. No wonder my book is looking so good right now. Time to dive back in… at least until the next time I come up for air and have words of my own to produce.