Stan Column: Books can provide an escape in uncertain times. PHOTO CREDIT: time.com

Okay, the confession’s out — I was a book nerd. 

No, not just the typical kid who liked to read. I took my craft seriously. I was the kid who waited outside of Barnes & Noble in the dead of December for three hours just to meet “Percy Jackson” author Rick Riordan. I went to conventions just for books, and when I was grounded as a kid, my parents took away my books. This is hard to admit, but I was obnoxious about it and looked down on people who didn’t want to read like me. I was a rather interesting child who didn’t have that many friends growing up, so in the pages I read, I found the friends I never had.

I consumed “Bookstagram” and “Booktube” religiously, the corner of the internet that “Booktok” can only attempt to measure up to. I fell in love with people who reviewed books online and gasped when I found out they even got sent free books. 

That idea sounded like a dream come true so I created an Instagram account proudly called littleducklove after my favorite series at the time, “The Hunger Games.” This opened up my eyes to the world of fandoms and it became my own slice of home on the internet. I was in group chats with people all over the world discussing our favorite books, the worst book-to-movie adaptations, which Hogwarts House we were in; I read basically any book that was suddenly a major hit through Instagram. 

It became even more of a home when I started to develop severe anxiety in middle school. The pages of my books, as well as this fandom world that I had found, became a way for me to slip away from my own reality. I found support and solace when I didn’t think that I could even tell my parents about these dark feelings I suddenly had and didn’t understand. 

Unfortunately, like many other young teenagers, I cared a lot about what others thought of me, and in order to fit in I tried to shed my book-loving self. Liking to read was considered very uncool by the people I wanted to be friends with, so I did whatever I could to become their version of cool. I deleted my Instagram, left the group chats and stopped reading in public. Over time, reading became more of a chore associated with AP classes and Shakespeare plays and I no longer reached for the pages that had been my home. My Goodreads goal for the year quickly went from 50 to 15. 

Then something stopped my world completely — the COVID-19 pandemic, you might have heard of it — and I had a lot of free time on my hands. In a time of such uncertainty, I went back to the thing that has always brought me such comfort in my past: my bookshelf. 

The characters and lands I knew so well were right there with me, and I was once again staying up until four in the morning just because I had to finish a book. My Goodreads is now very active again and I have found my way to “BookTok.” I am proud to be a reader, and if my future kid doesn’t like reading, well I’m screwed. 

For anyone else who misses the fictional worlds they have left behind I will leave you with this, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home,” and so will all of your books.