I’m writing this letter on a warm Sunday afternoon from my desk which sits by the window. The sun shines brightly on the swimming pool which lies silent. But that’s not how the day began.
When I folded my yoga mat after my morning yoga and meditation session in the living room around 8.30 a.m. I could hear happy shouts and shrieks of delight from groups of children in the pool. Some were playing around but there were others who were following the instructions of their coaches.
Weekends are fun, specially when you have a few hours of downtime between hectic weeks.
Yet, I have a tendency to sometimes pack my weekends with lists of things to do and then feel burdened by the mere thought of the list. When I came across a meme for a novel word “stresslaxing” which was defined as ‘being stressed that relaxing makes you more stressed because you’re not working on what’s making you stressed,” it felt like it was coined for me.
Do you feel the same way sometimes?
Yesterday I had a busy afternoon but I was super excited because I was starting something new. A friend and I decided to start a new book club that would require readers to meet in person once a month. We named it Browser’s Meet because unlike other clubs which meet to discuss a book that everyone reads in the same time frame, we wanted readers to feel free to browse through books they are reading (or have read) and talk about it in a relaxed setting.
Our goal was to encourage people to read more books, provide a fun way to interact with, make friends and share their enthusiasm for books in an easygoing format, to enable readers to organically discover a variety of books through personal recommendations and discussions and most importantly, sidestep the dreaded algorithms that skew our reading preferences.
There’s that “A” word again. Algorithm. The reason why I changed the format of this newsletter. Even though I know the algorithm gods are all-powerful, I still wanted to try a different kind of experiment with very low expectations.
As organizers, we were prepared that we might be the only two people meeting given the general post-pandemic reluctance for face to face interactions. But we were pleasantly surprised. We had a group of eight (including us) and an even distribution of men and women! And thanks to the diversity of the individuals and their reading tastes, we discovered a whole host of new authors/books to consider for our future reads.
The small group size facilitated easy discussion even though people had opposite views about some popular books. We were able to articulate what we liked or disliked about certain books without getting personal. Even the quietest members got to speak and share their views about their current or past reads and there were plenty of laughs to keep the happy vibe going.
Sometimes we are reluctant to start something or participate in something out of our comfort zone but when we put aside our fears, wonderful things can happen. The first meeting of the book club was one such experience. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the evening and feel good today as I write this. As humans, we have a basic need to connect and when we feel ourselves drifting, we need to make the effort to get back into the flow of life.
Everyone can’t be part of every community but your tribe is somewhere, perhaps closer than you think. Staying open to invitations that pop up in your mailbox or whatsapp might be just the thing you are looking for. So many times in my life books have saved me. Perhaps a bookclub like this can be a life raft for someone who has stopped reading but feels the pull to get back into a habit that once felt nourishing to their soul.
If that’s you and you live in Singapore, do reply to this email and I will send you information on how to participate.
Have you ever joined a group or a community at a time in your life when things were not easy? What is your favorite way to kickstart something you have been meaning to try?
As far as my current reading goes, I am listening to The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer and reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I have downloaded another audiobook, Tom Lake by one of my favorite American novelists Ann Patchett. I am especially excited about this book because it is narrated by Meryl Streep!
On the writing front, I watched the Barbie movie, which motivated me to write this piece about how men and women differ. Did you watch the movie? What did you think?
That’s it for this letter.
Do drop me a note about what’s on your mind - about books, swimming, movies, or anything unrelated to what you have read here. I love hearing from you and I promise to write back.
Until next time.
P.S. I was surprised and moved by all your lovely replies - you really made my day (several days actually) by sharing pieces of your life with me via email. Please do write soon.
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