What Am I Reading Right Now?

This post isn’t actually about what I’m reading right now. Horribly dishonest title, I know. My apologies. No, this post is about the fact that I’m reading at all, and hallelujah for that.

If you’re a bibliophile like me, you probably have at least five books that you’re currently reading, not to mention the fifty you will definitely read as soon as possible.

And the pandemic is a perfect time to finally get through that list, isn’t it?

Not if you’re like me. Somehow books got replaced with Netflix, and in 2020 the most horrendous thing happened – I failed my reading challenge. (Okay, it wasn’t the only horrendous thing to happen in 2020, but let’s focus on the reading for now).

I realised that television had taken over a place in my life that used to belong to literature, so I decided to join an online reading group. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. You meet up online twice a week, read separately for about an hour, and then you talk about what you’ve read.

It was the kick in the balls (though I don’t actually have any balls) that I needed, and I read three books in three days. The first one due to the social pressure of people knowing that you’re supposed to be reading. The following two because the first one reminded me how wonderful it is.

I love to read. To truly subvert myself into another universe, another set of problems, another mindset. But sometimes love isn’t enough.

Sometimes you need a good kick in the balls.

And a little bit of social pressure.

Lockdown Reading

With our return to ‘normal’ life seeming to stretch out further and further into the distance, our day-to-day life can seem uncertain and often times despondent. I know one thing I have found comfort in during this pandemic is reading literature; fiction or non-fiction, contemporary or historical- just anything that helps me put my phone down for an hour and stop reading every doomsday notification from the perpetual news cycle.  

And I’m not alone, I read an article this week that stated over 200-million print books were sold in the UK in 2020, the first time since 2012. It seems we are all finding some relief in the escapism reading literature offers. More than a simple boredom breaker or a healthier alternative to staring at a screen all day, reading fiction provides respite from our rather surreal reality. 

Becoming consumed by a narrative has helped me recover a sense of continuity when I’ve felt adrift, provided a space to become mindful and reflect on the issues or topics raised in the text, and often just provided a much-needed laugh. I think this is a unique ability of literature, and the arts- they help to heal culture. We look to literature and the arts to reflect on what it means to be human, and in these bizarre times this function is of particular significance. Literature and the arts provide an antidote to the isolation and hopelessness we can all relate to nowadays, ultimately helping us reconnect with ourselves and one another. For me, more time to read over this past year has been my silver lining.