I’ve written about every single book I’ve read since I was 13. I received a large writing book from an uncle, and the first book I reviewed was ‘Flambards’ by KM Peyton. At the back is a page where I record those few books which receive the accolade of ‘Best Reads’ – those truly knock-out ones that you constantly want to return to, yet do not want to finish because you feel you will miss them!. I’ve heard people say from time to time that reading fiction is a waste of time. The majority of what I have read is fiction – and for me this is so far from the truth! Fiction allows us to reflect on ourselves, in the light of what we are reading about how others see the world – through their relationships, loves, losses, struggles and growth. Reading tells us things about our own lives – and it’s these things I like to reflect on, and write down.
Choosing which books are my best reads requires careful thought: weighing up plot, what that book said to me about the nature of the world, and my own life, and on a more emotional level, how it pulled me into its world, to the degree that I would not want to put it down, often keeping the book open if I’m stirring a pot of cooking food, or sitting in a car with a bit of time to spare.
If I am reading a truly unputdownable page-turner, I notice how the idea of reading it can pop into my head at any time of the day, accompanied by an associated shot of feel-good chemicals to the brain as I imagine curling up with time to read undisturbed. Associations like these can be set in stone from an early age – as with myself – and are an example of healthy ‘self-soothing’ practice. The more we have learnt to do this, the better-equipped we will be for life’s dips and knocks. However, it is possible to ‘retrain our brain’ and, as with time set aside for mindfulness practice or yoga, regular reading – and writing – can become another tool in our ‘virtual toolbox’ for self-care.
Reading and writing are a form of mindfulness. They take us away from the ‘what if’s’ of what’s coming up next in our lives, and block out our ‘if only’s’ from the past, stilling us in another place that provides respite – hopefully captivating, engrossing and pleasurable. Much like doing a Su Doku – we are immersed in another sphere, which disengages us from dwelling on and perhaps exacerbating our stresses and anxieties.