I love to read; so much so that for the past few years, I have joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge. This year, I set my reading target to 30 books. I started the year strong. By mid-March, I had read 16 books!

Then COVID hit and suddenly I didn’t feel like reading anymore. Correction. I wanted to read but I couldn’t find the energy to read any of the books sitting on my table (generally business, leadership, and personal development books) or the ones I had previously downloaded on my Kindle (mostly fiction).

One exception…I read Jessica Simpson’s memoir, Open Book in late April. You might be thinking, “What now? Jessica Simpson?” And I don’t judge you for thinking that; that was my reaction when I first heard about the book. But the book had been getting rave reviews, so I thought, “Why not?” and I downloaded it. And then I couldn’t put it down. This was the book that I didn’t know that I needed during these COVID times. After reading it, I proceeded to talk about it to anyone and everyone who would listen to me. I’m pleased to report that those who read it after I recommended it also could not put it down. #validation

Sadly, after reading this book, my interest and energy to read dropped off again. If you are a reader, I think you will understand. This was a real dilemma. How could I get back into something that was such a part of me? And how would I fill all of the time that was previously occupied by social activities?

Well, I did what any good scientist would do. I formed a hypothesis and tested it out. Here’s what I came up with: 1) Based on the joy that I got from reading Open Book, I decided that I needed to read something that was light and easy to digest; 2) I thought that reading something that felt familiar and comfortable would be my best bet (similar to how many people were gravitating to old movies and teevee shows for the comfort and familiarity that they brought); 3) I needed to suspend my usual judgement (like I did with Open Book) and be open to reading something I wouldn’t normally choose; and 4) I decided that I needed to read something that would allow me to escape from reality.

With my criteria in mind, I went on to Amazon to browse the recommended readings and the one was the closest match to my hypothesis was a rom com novel. It sounded fun, so I downloaded it.

I read it in one day. Just so you know, it is not uncommon for me to read a book in one day but what was more telling was how the book made me feel; it made me WANT TO READ. After reading this magical book, I looked up the author and lo and behold, I discovered that she had written 20+ books in the same genre. So, I did what any reader would do. I downloaded another one. And then another one. I think that I read a book a day for the next 2 weeks. Oh, the feeling of nostalgia! I hadn’t binge-read like that since high school and the days of Sweet Valley High. There was also something so comforting and entertaining about the over-the-top rom com trope, the formulaic nature of each book, and the knowledge that it would be wrapped up with a happy ending. Happy ending + an epilogue (just to put that extra bow on the end).

After a month or so of reading a rom com book a day, I was ready to delve back into my other books. I mentioned this to my partner and he wisely observed that those rom com books were like active recovery for my mind. What?! Mind blown! Yes, that exactly summed it up. Basically, reading lighter books that had a formulaic and predictable story arc gave my mind a chance to rest and recover and allowed me to still use my mind but in a much less taxing way. Thanks Fin for being so smart!

Now, 9 months into the pandemic, I have read 100 books (a record for me) so far! I have read a healthy balance of “active recovery” books and my usual books. Who am I kidding? These active recovery books were such a game changer that they have now become my usual books too!

How are you giving your mind a chance to actively recover? Message me, I’d love to hear about it!

PS) Message me if you want to hear all of my reasons why you might want to consider reading Jessica Simpson’s, Open Book.

PPS) The rom com book that started it all for me was, Meet Cute, by Helena Hunting.