Our Reading Lives

Reading is Vital to My Health

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle

Contributing Editor

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle is a writer, podcaster, librarian, and information fanatic who appreciates potatoes in every single one of their beautiful iterations. Patricia earned a B.A. in Creative Writing and Musical Theatre from the University of Southern California and an MLIS from San Jose State University. Her weekly newsletter, Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice offers self-improvement and mental health advice, essays, and resources that pull from her experience as a queer, Black, & Filipina person existing in the world. She is also doing the same on the Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice Podcast. More of her written work can also be found in Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen, and, if you’re feeling spicy, in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Patricia has been a Book Riot contributor since 2016 and is currently co-host of the All the Books! podcast and one of the weekly writers of the Read This Book newsletter. She lives in Oakland, CA on unceded Ohlone land with her wife and a positively alarming amount of books. Find her on her Instagram, Bluesky, and LinkTree.

I feel terrible if I go for too long without reading, whether it be books or comics, fiction or nonfiction. Not merely in the guilty sense, but I physically feel ill. It’s hard for me to concentrate. My mood settles into a general malaise. When I don’t read, I don’t feel like eating. I don’t sleep as well at night. When I’m not reading, I’m not motivated to do anything else either. My creative brain feels dead. When I’m not reading, I don’t write. Not on here, not on my personal blog, barely even on social media. I have no ideas. I feel numb without a daily intake of books. When I don’t read, the door for depression pushes open a bit. I feel sadness deep inside when I’m not reading, having just read, or looking forward to reading. I fail to set goals. I fail to hope.

Knowing that this happens, why do I stop reading? I’m not sure. I have multiple piles of books and comic books to be read. I always enjoy reading. I have a similar problem with drinking water. I just, forget. I make it not a priority. I get sucked into internet conversations or listening to Hamilton AGAIN or scrolling through Instagram, looking at pictures of books but not actually picking up a book myself. Then, like clockwork, a few days later I feel terrible and I need to run through my self-care check: Have I eaten? Have I had water? Did I get enough sleep? Have I read a book lately?

The act of reading is in my own hierarchy of needs, nestled comfortably between coffee and medication. When I’m stressed and my self-care goes down the drain, I realize that reading is the first to go. Ironically, when I need to practice some intense self-care, reading is where I end up escaping. When I’m reading something that I’m really into, I feel so great that I forget that reading isn’t just a luxury for me, just a thing I like to do. I forget the importance of reading in my life. I take reading for granted and I end up paying for it psychologically for a few days or even weeks.

When I eventually pick up a book again I am overwhelmed with renewed love. I wonder how could I have ever stopped reading. I admonish myself for being so careless with something that brings me such joy and sense of self. Have I learned my lesson this time around? Doubtful. Perhaps, aside from the need for reading, I yearn for the feeling of falling in love with books time and time again. They will always be there with pages wide open and waiting to embrace me with stories, and I will always come back to them.