It’s not just that I really like to read.

A few weeks ago, I called Andrea and complained that I had been so incredibly out of sorts lately. That nothing I did seemed to make any difference: not prayer, not church, not reflection, not exercise. I had struggled and struggled for a couple of weeks, and then one day, pushed to the brink, I picked up one of my favorite books, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and it was as if all of my tension melted away as I read the first chapter. I wasn’t complaining about the book to Andrea. No, what I was complaining about was that I am such a heathen that what helps me when I am down is to read a novel. A good novel, to be sure, but . . . a novel. Not even a religious text.

A few days later, another librarian emailed me an article from the Telegraph entitled “Reading ‘can help reduce stress.'” Well. You don’t say.

Their stress levels and heart rate were increased through a range of tests and exercises before they were then tested with a variety of traditional methods of relaxation.

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis . . . [He] said: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”

I am not convinced that this makes me less of a heathen, but at least there is SCIENCE on my side. Also, I hope I can use this in my favor at some point, when Mike complains that I am reading instead of folding the laundry. I am not goofing off. I am REDUCING MY STRESS which is a VERY IMPORTANT part of living a LONG AND HEALTHY LIFE. I imagine that this argument would be especially convincing if I started reading novels with shirtless men on the front. I am going to go and buy some just for this purpose.

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