The Book That Made You Call in Sick to Work

Call it a mental health day. Sometimes you get so lost in the world of your book, you just can't get yourself out of the house. You barely remember to eat or sleep. You might even call in sick to work.

I would never do such a thing – ahem – but I’ve had friends who have done it. And I’ve understood.

I know what it’s like to get lost in a book. I remember a time when a book (books, actually) captured me to the point where I couldn’t stop reading – literally could not stop reading – for days.

It was during winter vacation several years ago. I was living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan at a major publishing house, which had an amazing holiday vacation package. We were off from Christmas Eve until the New Year.

I had all kinds of things planned for my time off: ice skating at Rockefeller Center, long bundled-up walks in Prospect Park, afternoons at the movie theater on Flatbush, dinners and drinks out with friends.

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None of that happened. I spent most of my vacation in my apartment. I blame George R. R. Martin.

A friend gave me the first book in the series (yes, I’m talking about A Song of Fire and Ice, the series that inspired the hit show Game of Thrones). I remember holding its mass market heft in my hand and thinking, “It’s been a long time since I’ve read fantasy, I’m not sure….”

But over dinner, my friend couldn’t stop talking about it – the cultural complexity, the inventiveness, the rich characters, the magic, the politics, the sex – so I promised to read it.

I started the first book, A Game of Thrones, the next morning. I read all day long. I ordered in from the Thai place down the street. I turned off my phone. I cuddled with my cat, and as the snow fell outside, I read and read and read and read.

For days, I would read until 3:00 a.m. and fall asleep with my cheek pressed into the pages. I’d sleep in until 10, then read through the afternoon, doze off at 7:00, wake at 1:00 in the morning, make some tea, and pick up right where I left off.

I lost track of whether it was day or night. I was cocooned in my apartment: just me, Coltrane, and my book. Over the next four days I left my apartment for only one reason: to buy the next books in the series.

When I stumbled out into the bright winter cold, I felt raw. I walked through the busy streets of Park Slope in a daze.

I could barely speak to the person behind the register at the bodega. I think I’d forgotten how to talk. So I stocked up on groceries, trudged back home with arms full of food and books, and settled back into the world of Westeros.

I devoured the entire series in one sitting. When I was done, I had a serious book hangover. I was unfit for society.

I re-entered the “real” world with a movie. I don’t remember which one, a romantic comedy, I think. It helped, a little. When it was over, I felt almost like myself again – almost ready to attend to the friends and family and holiday fun that awaited me.

So I went out and enjoyed myself. If my friends noticed that I was quieter than usual, they didn’t say. Truth is: my body was there – in the cafe, my friend’s apartment, the book store – but my mind was still in the world of the book.

[Photo Credit: bikeriderlondon/]

Have you ever been so caught up in your book you’ve barely left the house, neglected your chores, forgotten to eat, gone without sleep, or even – gasp! – called in sick to work? Confession time in the comments.

About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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