Using the art of reading to escape from the outside world
Reading has long been a form of escapism – being able to snuggle up on your favourite armchair and get lost in a whole new world is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, in our opinion! With all of us experiencing such a tumultuous year, the ability to disappear into a fictional universe has never been more important. Who better to discuss the benefits of reading to than award-winning author and Sunday Times bestseller, Rosamund Lupton?
Rosamund’s latest novel, Three Hours, has won numerous accolades already and has just been released in paperback form – just in time for us to spend the next few weeks using it to escape the real world! We can’t wait to get stuck in, but in the meantime we spoke to Rosamund about how reading books greatly benefits both your mental and physical health, as well as her recommendations on the best books to escape reality.
One of the best things about reading a book is that they draw you into a whole new world, away from not only your physical surroundings but also your current worries, concerns, and to-do lists! Instead of spending time worrying about the uncertainties of the world around you, finding a great novel allows you to be consumed by a totally different life and characters and you know that you can return to this storyline for solace, respite and a temporary escape whenever it suits you Even just picking up a book for a half an hour break can help lower your heart rate and allow your muscles to relax, helping to remove tension and alleviate the stresses of the day.
Rosamund explains: It feels utterly luxurious to have somewhere comfy to sit and read. Like taking a mini-break to wherever the novel I’m reading takes me. I think that certain types of books suit not just our physical circumstances but more importantly our state of mind. Looking back on a more hectic time in my life, having a building site for a house, anxiety about finishing my own novel, and looking after children in a new place, I needed to read books that would pull me into their pages. I found I had to read books that were not too quiet as they couldn’t compete with the outside distractions. I read books that pulled the reader into their worlds – wonderful books like Kate Atkinson’s ‘Case Histories’ series and Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’.
Similarly, when a member of my family became very ill, I escaped for a little bit from feeling acutely worried by reading. I chose books with rollicking good plots, page-turners that I wouldn’t have normally read. I wanted to be entirely immersed in someone else’s jeopardy that was nothing like my own. Fortunately, the family member recovered but I still sometimes choose a great plot book, like ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes, that keeps me turning the pages and I have so much respect for a writer who can plot so amazingly well.
As well as books providing us with solace, allowing us to while away time cosied up in an armchair by ourselves, they can also provide topics of conversation, a meaningful chat, and the basis for social occasions, even if they have to take place virtually for now. Now we’ve entered a new normal where socialising is restricted, and seeing your closest friends is even harder than before, books, and conversations around books have become even more crucial as a form of reconnecting with those closest to you, and even getting to know others.
Rosamund continues: I realise I’ve made reading seem like a solitary thing to do. But I think it’s the opposite. There is nothing more connecting than having read and enjoyed the same book as someone else. I reckon the time it takes to turn a new friend into a close friend is at least halved if you’ve both read and enjoyed the same books. Often, my sons and I, and sometimes my husband too, will read the same book or books by the same author (the Robert Harris summer holiday I remember well, in fact his books are bound up with my memories of Spain and sunshine). When my older son fell in love with books by David Mitchell, I followed his lead and read them too, and then the same with the Patrick Melrose series. Social media is also great at connecting readers with each other and with authors. As a writer it’s very exposing having your book ‘out there’ so to have people on social media talking about it, and liking it, is really wonderful.
During lockdown I found sharing book recommendations, and thoughts about books, particularly important. When we were all forced into separation it felt a way to connect with friends, family, and also people you didn’t know but who were readers too. I loved doing Zoom book clubs and Instagram author events, sometimes with people who even in ‘normal times’ would have found it impossible to attend in person. During lockdown, like many people, I went through all our old books, especially children’s books, and made a ‘help-yourself bookshop’ by our front gate. Within an afternoon all the books had gone.
I think families come together to watch TV and I had that in mind when I used my first royalties from my first book to buy a corner sofa large enough for all of us. But as my children grew up I realised that families can also come together to read. The downside is that the demand for reading places became more competitive, so I now have a comfy chair as well as sofa as a reading spot, with a perfectly positioned lamp. I like swinging my legs over the arm, teenage style, and becoming totally engrossed in the latest book in my hands.
And of course, we’d recommend finding a cosy corner or your favourite reading spot and curling up with Rosamund’s latest novel, Three Hours, which is out now in paperback!
If you missed our Instagram Live with Rosamund, you can watch it here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CG232kZlFQV/