Dear Sam,

How is your decluttering coming along?  I think splitting what can be a daunting task into daily efforts is an ideal approach.  I’m sure your house will look spick and span by Easter Sunday and the charity shop will be grateful, too.

Books are one of the things I often buy from, and donate to, charity shops.  It’s not news to you that I love reading, of course, since we met studying English. These days, as I make my way through my to-be-read pile, I try to pass my old books along and make room for something new. Over here we have great specialist Oxfam bookshops which are always good for a browse. Do you have similar shops in the U.S?

I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately as I’ve just done a fascinating course. It was called Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing. It was one of the myriad subjects offered to study online at no cost through Futurelearn.com.  I’m really interested in the way that reading can help us at challenging times and I learned that the concept of bibliotherapy goes back centuries: the entrance to the sacred library of Pharaoh Rameses II bore the beautiful inscription, ‘Healing-place of the soul.’  I also recently heard about some research which found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, more than taking a break with a cup of tea, apparently. Reading with a cup in hand must be extra-relaxing!

So, when we give someone the gift of a book – perhaps this weekend instead of, or alongside, an Easter Egg – it seems that we’re doing more good than we realise.

Much love and Happy Easter,

Claire