By Kat Ali
At various points throughout my academic career, when the demands of school became particularly time consuming, I found that I could no longer commit to novels. I couldn’t fully digest the stories, worlds and hidden lessons. I couldn’t form close relationships with the characters. I only got a taste for the writing, and promised myself I would reread when I eventually had the time and headspace.
In the short-lived, scattered downtime I had, I gave up on ink and paper and turned to screens.
Before nodding off to sleep, I watched yet another episode of Bojack on Netflix. Whilst waiting for a friend in Starbucks, I scrolled through social media apps on my phone. As much as I love the internet and all it has to offer, blue light before going to sleep is not a good idea and social media leads me to procrastinate mindlessly. In order to continue being inspired by reading outside of my required reading list; I crafted a small library of opulence, light intellectual stimulation, and easy, entertaining escapism.
The Diary of Anais Nin – Volume I 1931~1934
When I’m tired of being in my own head, I like to escape into Anais Nin’s world. A former artist, model, and flamenco dancer. She details her perspectives and daily experiences, which in Volume I, take place predominantly in Paris. She befriends pioneering artists and famed intellectuals (such as Arthur Miller and Antonin Artuad), she writes about people by digging beneath the surface of their desires and ideas and how she differs from them. It’s fascinating to read such personal and human portraits, as well as her self-reflections.
These passages are also particularly inspiring to read as someone who keeps a journal. Overall the bohemian lifestyle and the dreamy, metaphorical imagery Nin often communicates in, make it all seem rather otherworldly. As it’s simply a diary, with no strict over-arching plot, it’s very easy to dip in and out of. I find myself reading her diary entries when I’m bored of independent study. My preferred setting is a café. I can pretend I’m in 1930’s Paris, with a cup of coffee and a croissant, hanging out with Anais Nin.
The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
These short stories are very easy and quick to read. I finished The Birds in one evening, just before bed. However, that may not be the best time to get lost in Daphne du Maurier’s haunting words. Du Maurier is such an expert in building suspense and creating unnerving narratives. After I close the book, certain sentences and moments linger in my mind. You truly feel you’ve had some surreal experience after just a quick dose of du Maurier’s strangely twisted imagination.
I find these are best read on train journeys and rainy afternoons. You get the fun of being immersed in fiction, without having lots of characters to keep track of and intricate plot lines to keep up with. These stories will intrigue and entice you from the first page and then let you go once you’re a little psychologically unravelled, around a chapter’s worth of pages later.
Rumi –Whispers of the Beloved
This Persian Sufi mystic and Muslim scholar has been regarded as the most popular and bestselling poet in America. His poetry is very accessible and often available in pocket-sized editions. Rumi’s poetry is filled with gorgeous imagery and philosophical allegory, eloquently conveying important messages. He has the knack of saying a lot with few words and provoking you to have a revealing and complex inner dialogue.
Ideal for when you want a quick timeout of your busy day to drop into the moment. Or perhaps a couple pages to wind down at the end of the day.
Pretty much anything by Enid Blyton
You can also replace this option with any children’s author. The reason I reach for Blyton in particular, is that her language is so basic and her storylines so simple. Sometimes her books barely even have storylines. For example, her Family Collection; The Caravan Family, The Queen Elizabeth Family…etc, is really just about the lives of one free spirited family as they move into caravans and go on various idyllic holidays.
Although, her Mystery and Adventure Stories tend to be more plot based and feature a bit of mild peril, in case you want something with a bit more kick. You’re probably confused as to why and how, but trust me, her books are really fun and funny. They’re from 1950s England, so they’re deeply entrenched in delightful retro Britannia. Everyone says things like ‘Good gracious!’ and ‘Jolly good!’ and ‘I say, old bean!’
The innocence of the childlike adventures, such as traveling to peculiar worlds via a magic chair or from the top of a tree in an enchanted forest, makes for a very comforting and humorous read. Perfect for bedtime. If the old-fashioned whimsy isn’t enough to sustain you, Bruno Vincent has written a parody series called Enid Blyton for Grown Ups. In which, Blyton’s beloved Famous Five gang tackle more mature problems. Such as parenting, or giving up alcohol, all in true Blyton-esque style
Kat Ali was born in 1998 to an actress and a playwright. She was raised in a creative household and surrounded by a culturally diverse community. Now free from school, she is working in theatre production. In her spare time she enjoys studying whatever inspires her, singing old jazz songs, and wandering around London.