How Falling Back in Love with Reading Changed My Life
+ 5 of my favorite book recommendations!
When I was a little kid, I used to be in love with reading. I never went anywhere without a book, and I always sought comfort in stories. From Anne of Green Gables to the Secret Garden to the Magic Tree House series, I consumed so many wonderful books throughout my childhood. As I entered high school, my love for reading dwindled. While I still enjoyed my English classes, I stopped reading for pleasure. In high school, I greatly struggled with anxiety and depression. I lost interest in the hobbies that had once brought me so much joy. I stopped imagining different worlds and people through reading, and turned inward, ruminating on my own negative feelings. By falling out of love with reading, I had lost part of my childhood love of the world and a hobby that had once pulled me out of states of anxiety.
At the start of COVID-19 in March 2020, I decided to delete social media. Around this time I realized that social media was no longer making me happy, and the negative impacts of social media on my mental health far outweighed any positivity from those apps. Without having social media and the ability to hang out with friends in person, overnight I had more free time than I had had in years. I knew that without the structure of college and the distractions of my phone, it was very possible that I could slip back to the place I was in in high school. Since coming to college, I have come a very long way in my mental health journey. I started seeking outside help from psychiatrists and therapists and opening up to friends and family more. When COVID-19 hit, I worried that I would regress to my 15-year-old self and lose much of the progress I had made. To avoid this, I decided to return to my old hobbies that had brought me joy.
In 2019, I read a total of 10 books. When I was holed up in my room during 2020, I challenged myself to see how many books I could read. I ended the year having read 135 books. The outside world was confusing and stressful, and I found solace in the stories I read during this time. Instead of lying in bed focusing on my depression or how dark I felt the world was, I spent my time reading. I carried this renewed habit of reading with me into 2021, also reading over 100 books that year. Being forced to stay inside alone gave me the space to reclaim a lost part of my identity. Not only did I get to connect with the stories and people I read about, but reading also allowed me to connect with others in real life. I attended virtual book events, talked to my friends about books, and spent time reading with my family. Falling back in love with reading has been one of the best decisions I have made for my mental health. Having hobbies that keep you occupied, enrich your life, and improve your relationships with others can be transformative.
Below is a list of some of the books that made me fall back in love with reading, or taught me something about my mental health. Please make sure to check trigger warnings for these books, as some of them discuss difficult topics.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig: This is a short nonfiction book filled with personal stories and concrete advice for improving one’s mental health. I enjoyed the fact that this book did not sugarcoat the experience of having depression. Matt Haig discusses the harsh reality of struggling with one’s mental health, while also providing hope and a sense of solidarity.
Harry Potter Series: This series was my favorite when I was younger. I have always been a huge fan of these books and movies but had not reread the books in a long time. At the start of the pandemic, rereading these books brought me comforting feelings of nostalgia and made me eager to keep reading.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: This book is written in poetry form, which can seem intimidating at first. However, the poems flow so well and make the book easy to read and engaging. This book follows a teenage girl from Harlem and her experience finding her place in her world and in her family. Throughout the book, Xiomara gains confidence and an understanding of all that she has to offer the world.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This book follows our main character Eleanor Oliphant, and discusses the trauma she has faced and its impact on her life. Not only was this book interesting and uplifting, it also taught me a lot about PTSD and neurodivergency.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi: This shorter fiction novel tells the story of a coffee shop that allows its customers to travel in time. A cast of characters use time travel to learn about and undo actions from their past or future. This book made me laugh and cry, and had a lot of important themes, such as grief, love, and hope. This book is quirky and its characters’ journeys have stuck with me.
Caitlin was a summer 2021 intern and is currently a Project Associate at Reflect. She is a senior at Tulane University majoring in Psychology and minoring in Management. After graduation, she plans to further her education by pursuing a master's degree in counseling, with the hopes of becoming a therapist.