Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.

Jeanette Winterson

A good reason to read, if ever you need one

One of the oldest reasons for the popularity of reading is the escape from reality that a good book offers. Faced with an uncertain or turbulent world, many have sought refuge in the allure of linguistic teleportation.

According to a study by University Sussex, reading is the best way to relax, and even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds. The research shows that reading works even better than listening to music or going for a walk (even as much as 300 percent), because the distraction of concentrating on reading does more to ease the tension in the muscles and the heart.

A New Yorker article that starts with a visit to a bibliotherapist (did you know such a vocation existed?!) goes on say this:

Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.

Several other studies have corroborated this, and by now there is well-documented evidence that reading can reduce stress and boost your mood. You are at a lower risk of depression and more likely to sleep better if you read. If these are not good reasons to read during these tumultuous times, what is?

But it’s not any sort of reading – just as food is important to our health and well-being, but junk food is harmful, it is important to differentiate and choose the right kind of reading. Being addicted to the 24-hour news cycle that feeds itself on our need for drama and creates an illusion of immediacy does not help to reduce stress. On the contrary, it aggravates the problem. So, if we may suggest – reduce the amount of time spent on devouring the news – and allocate more time to a relaxing read. Sit back and enjoy a lovely book.

You are what you read, choose wisely

Look down at your feet. There is a good chance that you are wearing footwear and that it is Nike – after all they have the highest market share globally. How did Nike come to be? Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars in 1963 to buy shoes that he could then sell from the boot of his car. He went on to build Nike into the global business and brand it is today. How did he do that? What are the choices and sacrifices along the way? Are they worth it?

Now imagine Phil sitting in an armchair in your living room and reliving his experiences – his ambitions, his fears, his relationship with employees, suppliers and his family. An honest CEO who takes the time to tell us about his journey, without the BS of corporate PR. A man telling his story.

That’s what we get in the Shoe Dog, a candid memoir that is as much a riveting read as it is an illuminating education on what it takes to succeed when starting out on your own. Thinking of which book to start your reading retreat with? Why not Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Just do it!

Memoirs offer a unique connection like very few other genres can. An honest memoir is an invitation to intimacy, an open door to participate in another person’s lived experience, a chance to connect. In times like this, when we yearn for connection, we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off our reading retreat. You can find a few more recommendations for our favorite memoirs here.

Some tips and some tricks

  1. Read what you like – There are plenty of books out there, and I am convinced you will find the right one. It takes some effort, and it takes some deliberate searching and some trials and errors. But this is not an exam, you won’t be judged…the important thing is to pick something that feels right for you, that is good for you, and helps you relax and rejuvenate.
  2. Fill the empty spaces in your day – Have your ever tried accounting for the hours in your day? Most of us know the big blocks we spend time on – work, food, commute, TV, sports and so on. But there are many unfilled moments in a day – the times when we typically reach for our phone to do a quick browse of the news or social media feeds that turns into more time than we intended. Next time you feel the urge for mindless surfing, turn towards your chosen book instead.
  3. Find a nice cozy spot in your house and claim it as your reading nook – There is no better way to get started on your reading than to have a warm beckoning place to plonk yourself in, nurse a refreshing cup of tea (or a beverage of your choice) and let yourself get pulled into another world. Go on, it is the start of a reading retreat, so scout around your home and find an ideal spot.

If you would like to get more tips to be a better reader, download our practical guide – Read It Right. Free for all subscribers!