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I love to read and I always have a book on my bedside table, handbag or in my hand. Unlike many avid readers I don’t indulge in more than one book at a time and I always finish any story I have started, the one exception is James Joyce’s “Ulysses“. But anyone who has tried or even succeeded at reading this universal masterpiece will, I believe, concede that it is not that easy to get into let alone understand. However it is on my bucket list and one day I will read it from start to finish, like it or not.

I rarely read a book more than once as I have a good memory and  find I get easily bored when I know how the story ends, and since there are more books in the world than I will ever be able to read I think it is a good investment of my time to read as many new books as possible. I average at a book a week but there was a time when every two or three days I would be in the book store, buying fodder for my passion.

I was 18 or 19 when I discovered Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and Jean Paul Sartre and fell in love. I devoured their books and developed a readers-crush on Sartre literally gorged on everything he had written, even got my boyfriend infected. My favorite book of his was and is “No Exit” , a surreal tale about death and the source of the famous and often overused quote “Hell is other people”. But Camus’s “The Plague” was another firm favourite as was Kafka’s “Metamorphoses”. I loved the way these writers and thinkers didn’t stick to the rules of this world and created new ones that applied to the microcosm and universes they imagined, even if they were a little disturbing.

Now, I know that reading is meant to be good for you, helps you practices your imagination, increases your vocabulary and communication skills but I was surprised to recently read that surreal stories could help you become smarter. I stumbled upon an old article from 2009 saying that because our mind wants to understand how things work, tries to find the logic and structure in our environment that reading surreal tales challenges our brains. By forcing the cognitive mechanisms in our brains to search for patterns and try to understand what does not make sense we tap into our creative potential and enhance our learning ability.  But not only reading these surreal tales does this, watching David Lynch films or looking at Salvador Dali’s art can have the same effect.

I am not sure if dipping into the world of surrealism has really made me smarter but I do think that by reading about unexplainable worlds, I look out for the unusual, quirky and a little weird. Finding happiness in those moments that are not the norm and loving those truly wacky experiences.

I believe that Kafka said it best:

Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.


Kafka makes you smarter