Reading and Your Well-Being: A Conversation with Nurse Suzie and Anna Ford

This week, we sat down with Nurse Suzie and Anna Ford from Bookclubz, to talk about the positive effects of reading on mental health and wellness, and Binto’s new book club!


As an introduction, who are you and what do you do?


ANNA: My name is Anna Ford, and I am the co-founder and CEO of Bookclubz, which is an online management tool for book clubs. I am also a member and leader of five book clubs.


SUZIE: My name is Suzie Welsh, and I am the co-founder and CEO of Binto!


Anna, how did you get involved with Bookclubz?


ANNA: Back in 2011, I started a book club in Philadelphia with a few close friends. It grew to be quite a large group, and the management and organization of the group was getting difficult. Around that time, I met my now husband and co-founder, Ian. He was learning how to code and needed a project for a new language he was learning, so I proposed helping my book club get organized with a website. So, that was in 2014, and we really built the very first version of Bookclubz to be a personal tool that I would use to manage my big unruly club in Philly. 


That’s basically how we got started. Many more clubs found the site and we continued to grow. We redesigned and relaunched everything as a business in 2017, and we launched our app for Bookclubz in 2019. We went from one little club in Philadelphia to having over 60,000 people all over the world who use our site for their clubs! Pretty organic, I would say, the growth and use of the site, but it all started with our book club in Philadelphia. 


Suzie, how did you get into contact with Anna?


SUZIE: I went to summer camp with one of the Bookclubz founders, who introduced me to Anna. We connected on reading for mental health and the benefits of reading for well being, so we wanted to figure out how we could work together and support each other. 


We are starting a Binto book club! Suzie, can you tell us a little more about that?


SUZIE: A couple months ago, we started an email from me where I highlight things about myself or things I enjoy doing. I usually include what I’m reading, what I love, and want to share with other people. Community is really important to me, so I wanted to create a touchpoint where team Binto can connect to the women in our community, regardless of where you live or what you do. A book club seemed like the perfect way to do so!


Why is reading important to you?


ANNA: Without even thinking about reading as personally beneficial from a wellness perspective, I think I’ve just always been drawn to literature and stories and the way they can transport you. I love learning about history, different parts of the world, and different ways of living. I think that reading can cultivate empathy, and that’s a big reason why continually reading, and finding motivation for continual reading like through a book club, is so important. 


SUZIE: I believe that knowledge is power, so reading and informing yourself is key. Especially when you are reading something that is health related, make sure you read from a documented source. I love the empowerment side of reading -- for knowledge and education. As an entrepreneur, I find reading articles important for stimulating ideas, and fiction at night can be helpful to calm you down. 


What is your favorite genre, and what is your all time favorite book?


ANNA: I have two favorite genres, one is literary fiction. I’m drawn to fiction, but books that have real literary merit. I also love narrative nonfiction in the form of memoirs. My current favorite literary fiction book is Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. My favorite memoir is Just Kids by Patty Smith.


SUZIE: I love nonfiction primarily. One of my favorite authors is Pat Conroy, who writes great books from an entrepreneurial perspective. One of my all time favorite books is an autobiography written by Phil Knight, called Shoe Dog. One of my most recent favorite books is Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb. 


How does reading fit in with your wellness routine?


ANNA: I read whenever I can. As part of a routine, I always read before bed, sometimes for a whole hour and I’m really lucky, other times it’s just a few pages because I’m really tired, but it does help me sleep better. If I am up earlier than my alarm, I use that time to meditate and also to read. So, before I jump into my day and my to-do list, I let myself relax and pick up the book I had put down or fallen asleep to the night before. It really just helps me start each day in a relaxed state, doing a little bit of self-care. 


So, I read a lot first thing in the morning or at night. I also carve out time each weekend to read, to make it really feel like a weekend -- that’s when I do my daytime reading. But, I’m on a pretty strict schedule because, as I mentioned, I’m in 5 book clubs and I’m not always so lucky to be reading the same book for the same club, so those kinds of deadlines help to keep me on track. 


SUZIE: I use reading as a way to stimulate ideas, entrepreneurially speaking. In terms of for the business, it’s a great way for me to stay up to date with what is happening economically, in the women’s health sphere, and in telehealth. I also like to read about other industries and think about how what they’re doing might fit with what we do here at Binto. 


I’m a big walker -- I typically do a power walk every day for at least thirty minutes and sometimes for over an hour. I’m typically listening to an audiobook or a podcast, which is my way of reading when I don’t have the time to get my hands on an actual physical book. I also read at night before bed to calm down. I read as my way of shutting out the screen time and giving myself the opportunity to expand my viewpoint on things. 


How does reading impact your mental health?


ANNA: I think reading on its own has positive benefits for mental health. It cultivates empathy, and just literature in general promotes self-reflection. It also offers an escape, if you will. 


Even just beyond reading, I think book club, or being in a club where you not only read but also discuss, has even more powerful mental health benefits. Book club combines both literature and self-reflection with community, collective experience, and authentic connection with other people -- something that is especially important now. 


From a mental health perspective, there is even a concept out there called bibliotherapy, which is the use of books as therapy, whether it’s part of a treatment plan or just an overall mental health and well-being strategy. In a group setting, books can also allow us to give and receive feedback on literature and how it relates to our lives. I think in some ways, even if it’s not the intent or the reason why we joined a book club, stories and discussion are part of a therapeutic process and promote wellness and healing in unintended and really positive ways. 


SUZIE: I also find that reading is incredibly important for our mental health. When you read you are taking time to get away from a screen, it’s better for your eyes and vision, and it’s a good thing to do at night to calm your mind. 



What positive benefits do you notice in yourself, your mood, or your health when you read regularly?


ANNA: I sleep better. It improves my personal relationships -- I’m more caring towards myself and more empathetic and compassionate to others. It opens my mind to new ways of experiencing the world. And that’s just from reading. From being in a book club, after a meeting my perspective of a book really changes, but it’s also this experience of feeling really connected to other people through this joint experience and having a book to talk about. I always feel charged up and connected after a meeting, as if I have this wonderful support system. After a book club meeting, that’s always such a nice experience. 


SUZIE: I definitely feel more calm and less reactive. I also notice that I’m more excited and passionate about things in my life and Binto. I find I am more open to trying new things. 


Anna, you are a Binto customer! Can you tell us a little bit about your experience?


ANNA: I started with Binto after I met Suzie last year. I had never taken supplements before in my life, mostly because I’m so busy. I’m very wellness focused, but the most I could do was try to have a healthy diet, workout regularly, get enough sleep, do work I’m passionate about and hope for the best! 


Binto made it really easy to personalize and customize my experience. Having the individual packets every day has made it easy to integrate my supplements into my routine. And, knock on wood, I made it through this whole season feeling healthy and not getting sick. My gut health has been better as well. I also think that the topics and newsletters that come out from Binto are really relatable to me as a working woman which I appreciate. 


So, how will the book club work? How do I join?


ANNA: Any Binto customer or member of the community will be invited to join the book club. It will just be an enhancement to being a part of the Binto community. I imagine Suzie will choose a book, with input from community members, that everyone will be able to read and benefit from the discussion. There will be monthly virtual discussions that members will be invited to join and authors may take part in. 


SUZIE: Yes, it will be a monthly virtual meeting and we will pick a different book for each month. Anyone can join via the Bookclubz app or website!


ANNA: I have a feeling that it’s going to be another great way to stay connected to the Binto community, to read more, learn more, and just carve out some time for yourself and for your health. It will also be a great way to meet and engage with other people in the Binto community, because books are just a great way to bring people together. 


To people who don’t like to read, or haven’t been in the practice of reading for pleasure, what advice would you give?


SUZIE: I learned growing up that I’m an auditory learner. I also know that I might not have time to read a book during the day and I’m tired at night. As a result, I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. I’ll listen to them while I walk, workout, or cook every day. Same with podcasts -- these are great ways to keep up with learning and stimulate your mind in a different way. 


ANNA: My advice would be to start incorporating reading into your routine as a tiny habit in a way that’s sustainable to you. Maybe it is just, I read a few pages before bed every night, and let it go from there. Start with something that is tiny, doable, and you can have success with. You will probably find out that you really like it and that there are benefits, which will make it easier to grow from there. 


I think having the deadline of a book club meeting can be helpful. Always remember that members are always welcome to join the discussion even if they’ve only read a page of the book, or the back cover -- you still have so many things you could contribute and can still benefit from the discussion. Don’t let your fear of not having time to read the book stop you from joining a book club! 


If you would like to join our Binto Book Club, click here!

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