I could start by telling you how important books are, but you already know that. Instead, let us talk about some of those special, rare findings that make us feel sad, but which we get to love nonetheless: the books that break our heart. Have you ever come across a book that was very hard for you to read, but in the same time felt like home? If so, then you know what I’m talking about. Continue reading “Stories that break our hearts, and why they are worth it”
…this doesn’t look like a very promising start for a post about reading, does it? Bear with me, it gets better.
I know most of you have little precious time to devote on your reading habits. Working 9-5 (at the best of situations) leaves most people tired and drained, and we all know that a tired mind can’t fully enjoy free time, let alone a book. Then there’s the grocery shopping, the studying, the household chores. The social life (for those brave enough to have one on weekdays). What’s left of your precious time for that book that has been waiting for you on the nightstand for the past couple of months?
We need more time, but where can we find it?
Night time is my favorite part of the day to read. I’ve had time to do the chores and relax a bit, and then I snuggle with a book and read for an hour or two before bed. (Occasionally, as I’m sure a lot of you have done, I’ll pull an all nighter when a story is particularly catchy).
But there is more than just bed time
Have you ever wondered how much time we spend every day aimlessly scrolling on our phones? How many times do we put our phone down just to pick it up in a matter of minutes, if not seconds? There’s all kind of amazing apps in there, I get it. And then there is, of course, the social media.
Don’t get me wrong, I use them as well. A lot. So much so that I decided to make a rough estimate on how much time I spend on social media in a day. Now, social media on moderation can be amazing. I connect with many friends that live far away. And, of course, as a book blogger, I use them amply for promoting my work.
But what happens when we overdo it?
Five minutes here, ten minutes there, and you end up consuming three to five hours daily on social media. Mind you, they are not even active hours. In the biggest part of that time, we just scroll around.
And it’s not just social media
It’s not just about social media. It’s not even just about our phone. There’s aimlessly watching TV shows you don’t even like that much, or spending time on any activity that, deep inside, you find time consuming and aimless.
Spending time on what you truly love
So, starting January, I tried being more mindful of the free time I spend on various things. Where do I spend my time? Do I like what I do with it? Could I use it on something I like better?
And, just like that, I cut off on my social media “aimless scrolling time”, gaining about 2 more hours of reading every day. I caught up on my tbr list, and I loved it. It doesn’t mean I don’t pick up my phone to have a look from time to time, but it does mean I don’t do it aimlessly that often.
Bottom line, whatever it is that consumes your time a bit too much (and it certainly is something different for everyone), try doing it consciously. You’ll find you can cut down the time of it while still enjoying its fun side, and soon enough, you’ll be spending more time with those friends that patiently wait for you on your bookshelf.
I’m not particularly set on being normal. In fact, I believe it is just an overestimated adjective. And I know for a fact that a lot of other bookworms (sorry, I meant book dragons!) agree with me.
But why am I telling you this?
You know how some people go travelling and buy little souvenirs? Probably some postcards, fridge magnets, things like that? Some others buy more expensive things, like jewellery, clothing, paintings. Well, I so happen to buy different kinds of souvenirs. I think you have already guessed where I’m going with this. Yes. Books!
The Great Literary Hunt
My friends think I’m weird. (Now that I think about it, I should probably have that printed on a t-shirt). “What kind of person goes on a trip and buys books?”, they ask. The answer, of course, is the Great Book Dragons (yes, you are one too, and you know it!).
I don’t mean that I just go buy a book that I could have found back home, though. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense, would it? I do buy, however, a book that I might not normally find in a Greek bookstore, one that I’d probably have to order online.
In 2016, on a trip to Stockholm, my husband and I bumped into a secondhand store. I discovered some very cheap books (oooh!shiny!) , five in total. Come on, be honest: you wouldn’t have left them behind! And neither did I.
Other interesting types of books can be found in museum gift shops. Oh, the heaven of a well organised book section in a museum gift shop! I found the best so far in Florence, in Galleria Uffizi. That’s where my copy of The Medici Curse comes from (there’s a full review of that book in the blog).
It’s not always a common book, though. Sometimes you’ll find a rarer gem, and then the real excitement begins!Your heart just started beating a little faster, didn’t it?
Sighisoara, Romania, July 2017
Our last summer trip was in Transylvania. It had been our third day there, visiting a very beautiful, small town with a medieval center, mostly known as the birthplace of Vlad III ( the inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula). It was noon, and incredibly hot. We decided to get into a small, local cafe and cool ourselves with some ice coffee.
And that’s where I spotted it.
My little gem. My small treasure. Upon a bookshelf, lay a book published in Romanian, German and English: The Treasure Book of Sighisoara.
The treasure Book of Sighisoara
Funded by the town of Sighisoara, the book is a tribute to the town. It was written by local historians and experts, and shows the history of the town through the ages. From prehistoric settlements to the 21st century, all parts recorded in history are there. It is also articulately and beautifully illustrated. Well written, it is an absolute piece of art. A book that is not easily found online either, let alone in any other country’s bookshop.
So, there you have it. Finding new books is always a joy. However, stumbling upon rare gems of the literary world is even better. Experiencing that while travelling is an absolutely astounding experience. Never mind what the “normal” people buy while travelling. Go ahead, buy that book. Let your little bookworm heart leap with joy! And if you’re genuinely fond of the magnets, sure, buy them as well.
The point is that you can discover amazing little treasures while travelling. You do you. And if that means a literary hunt, go ahead and just do it!
P.S. Remember to show us all what you found. The second best thing to finding it yourself, is for other bibliophiles to show you what they have found on their own book hunts!
There are days when you don’t really want to get out of bed. And sometimes these days come closer together. Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you are going through a breakup. Whether that’s a family member, a friend or a lover, it’s possible a loved one is no longer in your life . But it just might be that you are going through a rough phase. It’s alright. We’ve all been there.
When I was around 10, there was a special book I called friend of mine. Whenever I had an unpleasant day at school, or had a fight with a friend, I would curl up in my bed. I’d get A Tree Grows In Brooklyn on my lap and start reading. Somehow, it made me feel better. Somewhere between getting away from the real world and getting lost in another one, I always seemed to start feeling better.
“We read to know we‘re not alone.” C.S. Lewis
It’s not always something simple like a sad day. And books are not the ultimate remedy for everything. But starting a new story, or even revisiting an old one, has a magical way of making me feel better. I do, indeed, as C.S.Lewis wisely said, feel less alone. I meet characters that think he same way I do, feel what I feel – or maybe I feel what they feel- and, in the process, I realize that I am not alone in what I go through.
Sometimes you just need a different perspective. Sometimes you need to get away from it all and return with a clear mind and have a fresh start. Other times all you need is to feel that someone else has been there before, and things might just not be as bad as you imagine them to be.
For some people, music does the trick. For some others, books do the job. Whatever the reason, pick up the book. Get lost in another world. Give it a try – the possibilities are endless.
Remember that somewhere out there, there is another reader going through a rough phase. Somewhere out there, a writer has put in paper what you feel, has made a story out of what you happen to be going through. And maybe, just maybe, they have something to say that will help you go through it.
If all else fails, connect with the readers
Remember that readers are usually highly empathetic people. When you read, you tend to see other people’s perspectives, which also helps respect different reactions and feelings. If you find the need to connect more, keep inmind that literature is not just about the books .
A while back I asked the Bookstagram community about reading. I felt down, and sad, and a bit frozen in place, as if my life was moving no more forward to the point I wanted it too. So, I reached for fellow readers and asked one simple question: “Why do you read?”. I was surprised to find some incredibly beautiful answers:
“I read because I like reading (it) relaxes me. It takes me to world in certain books. That the stories are interesting because I get a glimpse into another person’s life.” – @bookwormbelle27
“I read because it allows me to live a thousand lives. It allows me to see the world through different perspectives. To travel in time and distance. I read because its part of my life. Can’t imagine my life without books.” – @moodforbooks
“I read because sometimes this world is too much….” – @ a.mind.needs.books
“It is such a stress reliever and re-energizer!” – @notes_of_a_book_dragon
“I read so I can take a break from being me” – @popsicle_doodles917
“…to take a break from reality. […] And sometimes books actually make me appreciate what I have now, and teach me not to take some things for granted”. – @alinasreadingcorner
“I read to escape reality for a while” – @welshbookdragons
And my absolute favorite:
“For me reading had always been a promise. The promise of adventure and love, that even ordinary me could be special in another world or for another someone. It was the promise that even the saddest stories can have a happy ending. Reading was me living a life both better and worse than mine. Nowadays I read to be enchanted, to be in another world, to feel when I don’t wan t to feel my own emotions. To cry for another so I won’t have to cry for me. To be touched or angry or sad.” – @Booksofhopeanddreams
It’s all in the community.
I always say that readers are the introverts you want in your life. They listen, they (at least try to) understand, they empathize. Should you find yourself in a hard time, should you need a person to talk to, find a fellow reader. Talk and be heard. Listen to what they have to say. You might just find what you need in order to get through your hard times.
Footnote: A very big thank you to all the bookworms that took part in sharing their reasons for reading with me. You can find these wonderful people on Instagram and follow their bookish stories.
Being a fantasy literature enthusiast, Neil Gaiman is probably my all- time favorite writer. It is not just about the plot, I believe. It’s about the way his words instantly create the grounds for your brain to build a world. And he does it in such a simple and easy way, that the readers find themselves building up a universe in a matter of …well, in a matter of pages.
This is such a difficult thing to do, to try and explain how or why a writer’s works appeal to a reader so much. Everyone prefers their own style and their own genre, of course. But if you find, like me, that you are drawn to the fantasy section of the library quite often, maybe it’s time to get acquainted to the works of Neil Gaiman.
As a lot of people who are familiar with his works will tell you, five books is just too short of a list! However, I wanted to keep this (relatively) short, so here are the five books I think you should start with:
The Graveyard Book
After the mysterious murder of his parents, a toddler escapes from his house and finds refuge in a graveyard. The ghosts residing there decide to raise him, becoming his new family in the process. As Bod (short for Nobody) Owens grows up, supernatural dangers arise, and he starts discovering more things about his past and his family.
Yes, it’s a series. No, it was not originally just a series. This is a book. AN epic, wonderful, amazing, kick-ass book.
After being in prison for 3 years, Shadow is released upon his wife’s tragic death. It is on that day that he meets the mysterious Mr Wednesday. Deciding to become his employee, Shadow follows him across the US, meeting new, and interesting, if dubious, characters. Who is Mr Wednesday, though? Does he really hold supernatural powers? And what about Shadow? What is his role in this game?
Good Omens was co-written by Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett. Hilariously peculiar, this is the book to male you laugh your lungs out. If you are one of those people (like me) that read in public transport, prepare to be considered nuts. Seriously.
The Antichrist is born, the end of the world is coming, and basically the world is doomed. However, a bookworm-Angel and a Demon with a highly evolved sense of sarcasm refuse to let that happen. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to go back to their work, no matter if it’s hell’s dungeons or heaven’s bureaucracy. The two buddies forge an allegiance and start looking for the Antichrist child. What happens, though, if baby Antichrist has been…misplaced?
For the fans of Norse myths and legends, here you go, you’re welcome!
Gaiman has constructed a number of short stories based on the original Nordic myths. From Odin to Loki, from Freya to Thor, all the Norse gods you’ve heard of (and then some) are in here. Trust me, you will have an amazingly enjoyable time watching Gaiman breathe new life into the Norse Gods.
Fortunately, the Milk
Yes, that is a title. Of a book. Isn’t it awesome?
You’re never too old for children’s books. And if you have children, all the better reason to read this hilarious story.
A father needs to explain to his children why he was late bringing the milk home. Well, he has quite the excuses for it!Dragons, weird creatures, beautiful tales… So what if you don’t believe his excuses? You have to give him an A+ for the effort, right?
Magic..The thing we love about it the most, is probably its infinite possibilites. No wonder books around magic fascinate us so much. I haven’t put the Harry Potter series in this list. Not beacause they’re not good, of course (Hufflepuff for life, here!), but because we all know them. So here are some relatively less known, but really good books for you if magic is your thing.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
The year is 1806, and England believes magic has been long dead. Out of the blue, Mr Norrell arrives in London, along with his vast library and extensive knowledge of magic. Not long after that, a young practician of magic, Jonathan Strange, arrives in town. Between theory and practice, the last two magicians of England will either work together to save the nation in the Napoleonic Wars, or fight to the death, taking England with them as they fall. Is maybe Magic more dangerous than it is useful for this land?
Od Magic, by Patricia A. McKillip
Brenden has been born with a gift.The land can communicate with him, and plants thrive under his touch.An outcast of his village, he will soon meet the Great Wizard Od. Brenden accepts her invitation to become a gardener in her School of Magic, and it is there that he will discover that his gift is much more powerful than he thought, to the point that he himself could become a danger to the Kingdom.
M is for Magic, by Neil Gaiman
Sometimes you just need some short stories instead of “the long thing”. This is a collection of eleven short stories from fairytales and magical realms. Full of mystery, humor and suspense, they are scary, sad and happy at the same time. A fascinating collection.
Brownies and Broomsticks , by Bailey Cates
For the fans of mystery books, this is the first book from a series called Magical Bakery Mysteries. Katie Lightfoot is a Hedgewitch with a culinary diploma. Moving to Savannah, Georgia, she hopes to start a new life. When a man is found dead outside her newly established baker, Katie will use her wits and magical powers to help the police unravel the mystery. And maybe, along the way, love will be waiting for her.
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgestern
This list would not be complete without this masterpiece.
The circus arrives without warning.Just like out of thin air, you will see it appear one morning. Its doors open only after dark. Inside, magical things will appear, and behind the scenes, two powerful magicians are secretly planning the next moves of their duel.