Although it's a few days past the acceptable date to send New Year greetings, still! Here's wishing you safe travels as we embark upon yet another long, strange trip around the sun, preferably with a good read at hand, always.
The last twenty-two months have been the longest and strangest for most of us, myself included. The next twenty-two (and more) could be longer, stranger. We don't know yet. We would never know.
But what we do know is that reading, whether for pleasure or knowledge, benefits everyone.
As a reader for over three decades, I truly believe in the magic of reading. This belief has made it one heck of a rewarding journey nudging folks to read more since lockdown day zero.
And now, this 'sanity project' is all set for its next phase, after hours of experimentation across formats and platforms with one objective - to help you build a reading habit.
The jigsaw-puzzle pieces have been taking their time falling into place amid the chaos in which we reside. To provide context and hopefully make some sense of it all, in the first half of this first letter of the year, I would like to take you back to the start.
Here are the first 600-odd words published by me, from the captions of the first three Instagram posts shared on March 22nd, 2020. The origin story, reproduced without edits...
One Billion Seconds (or 31.7ish years)
[6th October, 1985 - 8th August, 2017]
On the morning of the 9th, a Wednesday, my alarm didn't go off.
Still I woke up at 9, surprisingly hangover-free considering the 11-pint
'fare-thee-well' bender the night before.
I woke up absolutely free, completely clueless about the day ahead.
My time was mine, and no one else's. For the first time ever.
No school or college to attend.
For the first time in seven years, there were no commutes, colleagues, managers, clients, meetings, targets, Key Responsibility Areas, achievements, designations, paychecks, rewards, bonuses, career advancements, job security ahead...
Also no concrete goals or fixed Plan Of Action. Only uncertainty, and lots of it.
The first few hours of my 'gap year' were three parts liberating, ninety-seven parts overwhelming.
So it was a literally insane me who decided that the best cure for my blues would be to spend some exclusive quality time with the ones who’ve been responsible for much of my joy and happiness over three decades, but now scattered all over the place.
Over three weeks of self-prescribed bibliotherapy, I reunited myself with long lost buddies from all stages in life, the fondest from childhood.
And there were more than a few still around, all thanks to a mother who believed there can’t be a thing such as too many books, and a father who carefully preserved every memory, even all those years I wasn’t around, busy playing the Game of Life.
There were many gifted and treasured, some bought but never read; others borrowed but never returned; none stolen, thankfully.
For the first time, I had all my friends in the same place, at the same time.
And like responsible friends, one, they gave me perspective, and two, the encouragement to pull off crazy, random stuff, one day at a time...
Don’t Panic, Don’t Try
[September 2017 - February 2020]
It all started with a one-way bus ticket to the Himalayas.
Little did I know that one spontaneous step into the unknown would lead to my ‘gap year’ stretching to include thirty months!
During this time, I was either 'On the Road' or 'At Home'. Mostly solo, but never alone...
On the road, I found myself experiencing more than I could ever have imagined even in my wildest dreams, enough to inspire a quasi-fictional work-in-progress novel of my own.
At home, I strived to follow Stephen King’s words of wisdom religiously… “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
I read a lot more than I wrote, though. The blues stayed far, far away…
For thirty months, atleast...
[March 22nd, 2020 - ???]
And now… the blues are back, and how!!! In these unprecedented times of dismay, we need to drive them away any which way possible.
The road ahead is uncertain, “for the night is dark and full of terrors.” Locked indoors, multiple screens flashing gloom and doom 24x7, humanity’s collective mental health has never been more vulnerable, and the enemy never scarier...
We need to be stronger than ever to face the inevitable challenges ahead. In my personal experience, books help. A lot.
Three days ago, depressed out of my mind, I once again got all my books out in the open.
The last time that happened, my life took a turn for the better. But this time, it’s not just my life at stake. We’re all in this together.
The pile on my bed should keep me occupied for a while, while keeping me sane. I’m more than glad to share the experience with the world...
So, welcome to Project Bibliotherapy, committed to chasing the blues away, one Book at a time... Starting with the 70-odd gems read in the past 30 months... Hope it helps 🙃
Till this point in life, I'd always been a consumer, never a creator. The confidence needed to put oneself (or one's work) out there somewhat eluded me. Over the next 664 days till date, I would like to think that amends have been made.
None of it would have been possible without you, the reader. Whether you've been swiping Instagram carousels, tapping on tweets, scrolling through ScrollStack, tuning into 'Guided Reading Meditations' on Clubhouse, or participating in the countless experiments elsewhere...
...Thank you for reading! It means a lot!!
In 2022, I will be continuing to invest my time, attention and energy towards (a) READING MORE and (b) nudging folks to READ MORE.
The surfeit of opportunities to connect with readers and creators, both online and offline, excites me to no end. (Reddit & Discord in particular, pique my curiosity the most at the moment.)
These Letters to the Reader shall keep you updated on all activity on the bibliotherapy front across platforms, showcased in one place. They shall always be free-to-read, and are scheduled to arrive in your mailbox twice a month.
But inboxes tend to get cluttered and mails unread. I realized this after conducting a read-a-thon in July 2021, in which a link to a goodread was mailed to readers at 8 AM every day. If the mail wasn't opened within 24 hours, it was hardly ever opened at all.
So in August 2021, I created my first zine (/zeen, as in 'magazine') christened '42 Goodreads of the Internet'.
I put together the most frequently-recommended 42 goodreads in one place, in both digital and physical avatars, to make it easier for readers to access my curated corner of the greatest library known to humankind - the internet.
The '42 Goodreads' zine has also made it extremely easy for me to introduce my favourite authors and their brilliant creations to the world. Between August and December last year, everywhere I went, I went with a bagful of zines. Everyone I met, received their own copy. Friends, family, fellow alumni, bookshop dwellers...
At last count, 800+ zines are in circulation. It blows my mind that 800+ readers (and counting) can read, for example, Douglas Adams's 1999 masterpiece (Goodread #42) by scanning a single QR code instead of stumbling upon it on the fourth page of a google search.
During the last 42 days of 2021, I shared one goodread from the zine every day on Twitter and Instagram stories.
The plan for the first 42 days of 2022 was to explore the other works of the authors linked out in the zine, as announced in Letter to the Reader #1
But 42 days aren't enough! There is an incredible amount of awesomeness which resides in the online archives of these 42 sources of goodreads (and more), waiting for your reading pleasure.
Thus, I invite you to become a part of an exclusive community dedicated to READING MORE in 2022 - 'The READERS OF 42'
Membership benefits include -
[a] Digital copies of all zines to be published in 2022 (ten more are work-in-progress as we speak)
[b] Access to the Bibliotherapy Discord server (launching in February 2022)
[c] Personalized reading recommendations to help you build your own library
[d] Sneak previews of all my writing experiments revolving around books, travel and nostalgia
[e] and anything else which might be inspired from Life, the Universe and Everything in the Biblio-cave - my ever-expanding library and anti-library...
In 2019, while wrestling with my still-in-progress first draft, I read somewhere that a book is considered to be a best-seller in India if it sells 10,000 copies. I don't know if it's fact or fiction, but that number got stuck in my head ever since.
So for the first 10,000 'Readers of 42', I'm keeping it simple...
Support Project Bibliotherapy on ScrollStack, with a contribution of your choice, and I'll add you to the community.
Also, 50% of all funds collected shall be redirected towards buying books for others, especially kids. (Think giveaways, library donations, prizes for writing competitions / quizzes and more.)
But before investing your hard-earned cash, I recommend visiting the 'Bonus Reads' section of the 42 Goodreads Zine and reading more...
Here's the link to download your copy of the zine.
Happy Reading! ~ Nitin
PS. Spread the word, please? Thanks in advance :)