How Cozy Cat Mysteries Got Me Through Grad School

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This is a guest post from Zoe Dickinson. Zoe is a poet and lover of language. Her two favourite places are the beach and the library. Follow her on Twitter @zoeidadickinson.


Grad school is two long years of perpetual emergency. I’m just finishing up my MLIS degree, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had the luxury to do anything extracurricular. Social drinking is a distant memory. I don’t have time to make it to the gym. I haven’t had my hair cut in over a year because making an appointment seems too time consuming. I haven’t written a poem in months, and poetry is the central passion of my life. Everything falls by the wayside, squeezed out by an avalanche of assignments, textbooks, and the dreaded thesis.

Despite that avalanche, there is one thing I never stop having time for: pleasure reading. Regardless of whether I have an assignment due yesterday or my thesis is due tomorrow, I will spend at least a few minutes of every day reading for fun. It’s not that I’ve prioritized pleasure reading over anything else. It’s just that I can’t help myself. 

Life is pretty stressful right now, and the best way I know to cope with that assignment due yesterday is to dive into a cozy cat mystery (yes, that’s a thing). It’s not procrastination – it’s survival. In the last two years, I’ve faced grad school, broken friendships, my partner’s illness, and the various small humiliations and privations commonly known as adulthood. Fluffy romance novels, cozy mysteries, and whimsical fantasy series have pulled me out of despair on a daily basis. Words take my tired brain out of itself. The rhythm of plot soothes my heart. I may feel like an impostor in my own life, but I feel right at home in Hannah Swensen’s. Fiction is the rock that anchors me to myself by taking me out of myself. It’s how I manage to exist in the world.

Yesterday I almost bumped into a classmate because I had my nose in The Cat, the Quilt and the Corpse by Leann Sweeney. She looked at my (admittedly) frivolous book and said, “How do you have time for that right now?!” I didn’t know what to tell her. How do smokers have time for smoke breaks? How do you have time for your coffee in the morning?

I can’t help myself. I can’t not read. It’s the best (maybe only) life skill I’ve got!