Cover photo

My Readers' Journey

During Berlin Blockchain Week last month, something funny happened.

As I was sitting outside our event's venue, catching sunlight and words in the form of my current book, someone walked up to me:

You must be Naomi

I had never met this person before. Yet he recognized me despite only ever having seen my X profile.

In the pinned tweet, there is a thread of books I've read. My avatar is a gal with green hair. Outside of her attitude, we don't have much in common. My gal and I.

Yet, the fact that I was the one person sitting there reading was enough to identify me at a crypto event.

I've found that carrying a book wherever I go gives me some assurance. It's my version of a comforter. It helps to know that there's a way to escape for a little from the dullness of that are most networking events.

During incredibly draining conversations, I'm tempted to pull out my book (I have a collection of books small enough to fit in a women's clutch) and check it as casually as others do their phones. Only to then say, "Oh, sorry, I gotta take care of that."

The thing needing care probably being obscure philosophical concepts or a novel about two guys who cope with their past trauma by making crop circles (great book, btw)

One day, I'll find the courage.

Books and reading have become intrinsically linked with my identity.

Writing and reading are some of my go-to responses when people ask me what I do.

I consider it my mission to encourage people to read and visit libraries and their local bookstores.

With mixed results so far.

But this recent small occurrence made me reflect on my reading journey.

I don't remember when exactly I fell in love with reading. I reckon it must have been a picture book, but I really can't say.

Picture books these days are stunning (from a book called Martha, about the last passenger pigeon.)

My first experience with books was when my parents read us nighttime stories before putting us to sleep.

Both my parents are avid readers, so I grew up around books. My mum is the type of reader who brings countless books home from the library and reads them all in wild disorder—just as she feels.

My dad has a more linear approach, reading one book completely before opening another.

Reading was so prevalent in my family that there was even a table manners rule for it:

When there were more than three people at the table, books were not allowed.

It's impossible to evaluate how much this positive childhood exposure has done to me, but it has been tremendously valuable.

One thing I can say for certain is that we absolutely need to read to kids.

And no, tech bros, it's not the same to put on an audiobook. Neither is it if you customize the voice to yours or when ChatGPT makes the story exactly as your child wants it to be.

The German language has a word for reading to someone: Vorlesen. (Hence the famous book about a young guy reading to a senior woman, "Der Vorleser")

It's a combination of the preposition vor (before, in front of) and the verb for reading.

I'm convinced that Vorlesen is hugely beneficial to children and surprisingly enjoyable for adults.

Having read to a group of preschool kids for a year now and exchanging experiences with other reading mentors, I have discovered that our most attentive listeners are, at times, adults.

Is it because it's as close as we get to experience narration in our world, where all communication is under the pressure to convey information and be productive?


But I digress.

Having been read to a lot as a kid and seeing people around me with books left its mark.

Library visits became a highlight of my week. This hasn't changed.

I'm still the same, excited to see what I find on every visit.

Once I learned how to read, I read a lot. As a school kid, I devoured Cornelia Funke's Ink Heart series and Harry Potter at astonishing speed.

Eventually, though, with university, my reading shifted. I became focused on the papers and books I had to get through to get decent grades. I also volunteered with AIESEC and had a mentally tumultuous relationship - which kept me from reading more consciously.

Maybe reading Dostoyevsky during that time would have been some consolation.

This is advice I'd give my younger self, alongside the recommendation never to assume you can fix a guy.

After moving to Japan, I met someone who (unbeknown to him) woke me up from the hazy reading patterns I had fallen into and helped me get some structure back.

Living in Tokyo, it's always easy to be out and about. All-you-can-drink izakayas and an imposter-syndrome-driven attempt to go to all the crypto meetups did little to foster reading time.

He recommended a book (something like How to Succeed after Graduating University), and while it contained nothing brand-new, it was still the right book at the right time.

I overcame my inertia and got back into building my reading habit.

I moved to London, and five months later, the pandemic created the perfect terrarium to grow the initial seeds into a full-blown, healthy-ish book addiction.

This pic led to a India <> Germany FC powered book exchange

The only deterring factors were living in a flatshare right next to a guy who was into me and had weird ways of showing it and knowing any second I walked out of my room; I might step on a dead mouse (this happened twice, and was enough to traumatize me). Once you start wondering if the mice are in your room, in the wall, or close by, it's not so easy to focus on a book.

Anyway, writing had become part of my job at the same time, so I figured reading was one way to be inspired to practice.

For additional accountability and to stir my inner competitive spirit, I publicly announced that I'd read one book each week for a year. To prove it, I'd post a quote or thoughts in a thread.

For the first two years, I was pretty consistent in reading one book at a time. My focus was on nonfiction, business books, economics, and psychology—anything that would help me manage work in crypto.

But then I became what people threaten you with when you're young.

More like my mum.

I read more than one book at a time. At the moment, for example, I'm reading Faust by Goethe and Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf. In between, I soak up a few paragraphs from Schopenhauer's Aphorisms. You see, I'm in my German Classics phase.

Oh, and let's not forget about Manga. I love House Husband and Blue Giant, as well as articles from fellow writers on paragraph and favorite newsletters.

Non-fiction, not so much anymore. You can learn just as much from fiction.

Plus, people started hiring me for my voice and the random associations I'd put in my blogs—the ones that not everyone has (especially not ChatGPT). Reading broadly helps.

By now, there's a book on any surface where it's permissible in my flat. In my kitchen a band of old fairy tales (including an absolutely unhinged one by Martin Luther). In the hallway, Othello by Shakespeare. Next to my bed: some bands of poetry and a physical Noema magazine... You get the idea.

At any time, I also have a well-stocked shelf section with books from the library.

A book is never far when I sit down in my flat, so I read quite a bit these days.

Enough for people to recognize me for it.

It even happened at a bar I've only been to 3 times.

I don't know anymore if I still read one book a week. Probably, but it doesn't matter to me anymore.

I definitely reflect more on what I read in books, try to combine thoughts and narratives from different authors, and often re-read the sections I enjoyed the most.

I've become a reader to people.

As such, I often get asked questions about reading, and I receive feedback I didn't ask for, such as "Just get a Kindle."

That's why I want to write about all of it.

Initially, I wanted to squeeze it all into one blog.

But I realized there's a lot.

Consider my personal readers' journey but the overture to a dive into all my thoughts and reflections of a life where reading is an idee fixe.

A theme at times in the background playing pianissimo, but never gone completely.

Thanks for reading 💚

If you have any questions for me about reading and books:

Don't be shy,

Let me pry,

Deep into your reading desire,

Where ideas conspire.

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