Have your reading habits and choices changed during the Covid-19 Quarantine? After realizing that mine have, I asked several BHPL staff to write a paragraph about what’s happening to them. Starting with me, in the very beginning I simply couldn’t find a book that held my interest for more than twenty or thirty pages. I didn’t like the characters, story, writing, or anything else. I reverted to a few of my favorite authors for several books before I started venturing back out of my reading shell. Also, I stopped watching news programs on TV or listening to serious news during my trips back and forth to work. Unfortunately for my ability to sleep soundly, my next choices were several dark, atmospheric mysteries featuring premonitions and really creepy characters. I was reading more and enjoying it less. The weather started to improve and I could, in good conscience, declare it time to start my annual summer reading. If I read hard covers or even paperbacks, my current reading choices are so light and happy they could fly away. Fortunately, I download my titles so they can’t escape when I turn off the device. I am reading more and sleeping better.
When I was very young I dreamed that I was in a big comfy chair in a log cabin with a fire place, and a cat, and the walls lined with books. And more books in piles. And a book in my lap and a cup of hot chocolate. I could spend the rest of eternity snuggled up with a good read. Aaah. Two months ago, when our lives took a turn, I tried reading a book but it did me no good. Non-stop media news was all the new storyline I could process. After 3 or 4 weeks of learning new rules and practices, while gorging on breaking news, I felt starved for a story about something else. Even then it took a lot of looking to settle on Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. I won’t say much about it, but if the time comes when you don’t know what to, read this. This one book was all it took to set me back on track and rekindle my reading dream. I fixed up a cozy reading nest with lots of pillows, a blanket, a stack of books, a cat, and, this time, a glass of wine. Aaah.
Little did I know when I picked up Chris Bohjalian’s latest novel The Red Lotus that I would be reading a fictionalized, prophetic version of our current situation. Being a fan of his writing, I had placed a hold on the book not really paying attention to the plot… a biologically engineered pathogen ready to be released by unscrupulous scientists to create a worldwide plague. It was a slow read, but eerily riveting. Unfortunately, this slowness has become a pattern. My reading has slowed down and has even become distracted during this time. For someone who works at a library and has access to thousands of books, I am also given many books as gifts by family and friends. Adding to that, I love to browse, or should I say purchase, at independent and used bookstores. I decided to focus on the books from my own shelves, bedside piles and Kindle. As I looked through the these titles, I saw that they held wonderful memories. Reminiscing had me picking up books and flipping through, but not really reading them. At work I read a review of an upcoming novel that sounded interesting. I saw the author had published previously so I downloaded Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev from hoopla and read it on my phone in two days. Amazing, perhaps I am out of my slowness rut. Currently throughout the house I have many half-started or half-finished books depending on how you look at it. Is it because I’m not focused and my mind wanders to happier, freer times when I acquired these books? Is there just one more chore I need to do around the house before I can sit and read? Or is it that I am asked twenty times a day “What’s for dinner?”.
Due to almost everything being closed due to COVID-19, I thought "Great! Now I will have more time to read books!" It's not exactly worked out that way. In some ways, I feel that I have less "me" time because my family is together more with few opportunities for us to run off to do our own things. We do more things together than before, e.g. taking walks, eating, watching movies and TV. I have made some changes in terms of my reading habits; I’m reading newspapers and magazines more (and not just articles about the coronavirus!). I've been reading more variety: I read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and listened to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (both novels) and I also have 2 non-fiction books (one print and one ebook) on my to-read list. The biggest change has been making an effort to read 1-3 chapters of a book most nights before going to sleep. Hopefully, even when we get back to "normal", some of these new reading habits will stick.