My Spring Reading List: Get Off Your iPad and Start Reading A Book Again (yeah- a real book)

Robin Levine (this is my website)
·4 min read

One major positive for me the last year was that I started reading books again. Not downloads on my iPad, or news apps, but real live paper books. I missed them.

I forgot how much I enjoyed reading because (like so many of us), I have fallen deep into the depths of Netflix. Especially in the last year and for or obvious reasons. When I do “read,” I read my Atlantic app (I love their content dearly). It’s a struggle on my tiny iPhone screen. I also love Medium. But pick up a real book? It’s completely fallen out of my habits.

And did you know that studies show that reading a book actually strengthens your brain. In one study conducted in 2013, researchers used functional MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the brain. Study participants activated more and more areas of the brain than those who did not. Quoting healthline, “brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterward, brain connectivity increased, especially in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.

It feels amazing to look at a book again. To give my eyes a rest from constantly looking at a digital screen. There is a different sense of accomplishment when you finish an actual real paper book that can’t be replicated with a phone.

So, here are my favorites over the last year. And to warn you, none of these are brand new books per se, but really great nonetheless:

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

Certainly not a new book. But a book I have not read in maybe 25 years? Maybe it’s my nostalgia for what New York City used to be before COVID, but I reached for this book and re-read it in record speed. And it was as good as I remembered it 25 years ago.

Holden Caufield living as a recluse on the streets of New York at age 17 for two days made me reminiscent of my younger days in New York City. Holden is resentful, confused, depressed, and dis-enchanted. And Salinger is a deeply cynical writer, and the tonality of this novel seemed to be worth re-visiting in 2021. It was also a really introspective read taking this on at age 43 vs a good twenty-five years ago when I had originally flipped through these pages.

F*ck No! by Sarah Knight

Ok. So, I did say that this list was going to be “novels” but I slid this one in the list. It’s still a real paper book. With a title like F*ck No!, this book was a fun quick read that was self-helpish all in one.  I want Sarah Knight to be my new best friend. Why did it take me so long to find this book? Sarah – if you are reading this – can you email me so we can be besties? This book sums up what I went through mentally over the last two years but in a better and more articulate way.

What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love by Carole Radziwill

I love books that profile honest stories about modern women. I especially love books that talk about women coming from modest beginnings and building their way up in the world. I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book, which is an Oprah pick and a New York Times Bestseller. The book is exactly what its title says, a story about fate, friendship, and love – but not in a cheesy way – if you know what I mean. And it’s full of deep candor and an almost detached honesty.  

As a fellow New Yorker, I also loved the backdrop of upstate New York, New York City, and the Hamptons. Carole details her upbringing in upstate New York all the way to her making her way into a news internship, meeting her husband, earning her Emmy’s and everything in between. Her storytelling is raw and amazingly well written. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s also a great reminder of how important hard work, ambition, honesty, and true friendship are.

The State Of Affairs by Esther Perel

In the past two years, I have devoured everything about divorce, cheating, and relationships. In case you missed my post about it – read it here. Esther is an oldie and a goodie to read.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This is such a famous book and I had never actually read it. It’s a great story. It’s an easy read. And it’s inspirational. A true feel-good book. Which is something we can all use right now.

Photo credit: Before Sunrise is a 1995 romantic drama where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train through Europe. Don’t we all wish we were on a train traveling through Europe right about now?