I grew up with access to an extensive amount of books. Some may even call it a private library. My mother is the epitome of a bookworm. Tell her the name of an author or book and she has probably read it. Her favourite gifts are books. (We have to ban her from bookstores in December or before her birthday because otherwise she buys the books we planned to give her.) Naturally, she tried to pass this passion on to her children.
When my brother and I were small, our parents read to us every evening. When we had learned to read, we went to our room and read a book by ourselves before going to bed. Of course, there was a time when I lost interest in books. Like any other child – there were the phases when TV shows and movies were much more interesting. When mobile phones came up, I ended up texting or talking to my girlfriends until late at night. (I am very glad that there were no smartphones when I was a teenager. I do not think late night “swiping” would have done me any good.)
I started to read more again after I finished university and started to travel a lot. I always brought a book to pass time on the plane. I am very old school when it comes to reading – I do have a Kindle but unless I go on a beach holiday, I hardly ever use it. I want to hold a book, be able to turn pages, mark the corner of the last page I read and sometimes even mark things with a pencil.
Over time, I realised that reading before going to bed was one of the few things which actually helped me unwind and think about something else. Before Covid, I used to work the whole day, have dinner, watch a light show on Netflix and then go to bed. Sometimes, I even caught myself scrolling through social media. My nights were not good – lack of sleep, crazy dreams and the relaxation factor was close to zero.
I knew I had to change something and try to go to bed early and then read for 30 minutes to an hour. I prefer novels and fiction. Everything too realistic gives me weird dreams for some reason. Especially since the start of the pandemic, bedtime reading has helped me to stay calm. I have turned it into a ritual to not watch the evening news anymore. If I occasionally happen to watch it, they still mess with my dreams and sleep.
To take my mind off work and the pandemic, I have read countless crime stories (Agatha Christie is still my favourite, but I also recently discovered Pierre Martin’s “Madame le Commissaire about a female detective in Southern France), books about interesting women and about travel, of course. If I cannot travel due to the pandemic, I can at least do it in my mind. Books take me to different places, introduce me to interesting people and just let me create a world of my own. I decide what a certain scene, place or person looks like. I am the director of the whole thing.
I mostly read books in English or German. If the original is written in English, I stick to that version. If it is translated from other languages, I read it in English or German, whichever is more easily available. (This reminds me that I have quite a few books in Italian, Spanish or French which I should also read. Maybe this would help me even more to relax because I would have to focus more than in English or German.)
I have never been keen on meditating in the strict sense. I just feel weird sitting in the lotus seat and listening to myself breathing. But I do agree with Ariana Huffington: In “Thrive” she says there can be many different ways to meditate – when we brush our teeth or wait in line for the bus. Mine is reading a book. What is yours?
For book recommendations, you can also check out my book reviews here.