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I recently had a preventative surgery, followed by a week to recoup. As I configured the pillows, I faced a luxurious dilemma: When you’re recovering from a little medical something, you’ve got time on your hands and a body that needs to chill, but a brain that needs feeding.

You want to read, and if you’re anything like me, your bedside table runneth over. With so much food for thought, how do you choose?

What comes to mind now is like wedding-prep: old/new/borrowed/blue… During the week of my reprieve, I wasn’t strategic, but as it turned out, I had on hand a read to feed every mood: Lit, brain candy, citizenship, business.

Lovely Lady Literature

One day at my doorstep, an angel had left Arcadia (and Bernadette, which I had just read). I started the week with this pick, and the lit-crit geek in me loved analyzing the characters’ names and how they fit. Another dear friend brought me a chai latte and a memoir, The Boy Kings of Texas. And in a late-night hour of inspiration and delusion, I wrote 1,000 words in kinship with the many souls devoted to NaNoWriMo.

Beautiful trash

During my time off, friends papered the coffee table: Us Weekly and People (for cultural literacy), Seattle Metropolitan (researching good eats), Real Simple (for striving to be efficient yet chic) and Oprah (live my best life, natch!).

Keeping up with the Sulzbergers

A few years back, I bid adieu to the Gray Lady (too many dead trees, too little time). I recently rejoined the party, compromising with my friends at The New York Times: Just Sunday. Hello heaven, and I time-manage its width by reading the feature-y sections bit by bit throughout the week. Voyeuristic guilty-pleasure wedding pages, week in review to chew current events, styles to savor…A feast.

Blind ambition

Before my stay-in-bed week, I got my hands on some work-related reads. I had already read Content Strategy for the Web and Letting Go of the Words, and wanted to refresh. Stocking up, I got geeky and bought The Web Content Strategist’s Bible and Content Strategy at Work. When inspiration hit, I read, skimmed, took a few editor-geek notes in my big sketchbook for back-to-business brainstorming. And then, when I ran out of juice…

Naps

The best thing about medical leave. Yes, you can.

Gratitude

There’s nothing like stepping out of your life for a week of healing to make you appreciate. While all this was going on with me, climate change brought catastrophe back East. I was grateful for my smooth recovery, modern medicine, and the TLC I had received. You can’t compare these experiences–preventative surgery and destructive meteorology. A crazy common denominator: Reading. For escapism, information, connection across the miles–reading feeds you a menu of everything: a taste, a binge, a life.

When you can—or must—take time off, how do you decide what to read?