Nowhere to Go But Everywhere
Like nearly everyone, I've been spending more time at home lately. As in, all my time at home. I haven't left my house in more than a week. The coronavirus more than interrupted my daily life. In some ways, the pandemic shrank my world in a matter of days. We went from the normal hustle and bustle of work, school activities, and family outings to the new normal of no work, no school, and no outings. My family's situation is better than that being faced by many in our country. We still have our jobs, and we still have our health. These are no small blessings in these troubled times.
While we're practicing social distancing, social media is providing one way that we're still #AloneTogether. The internet is connecting us as we take part in online meetings, webcasts, and video chats. We share news stories, pictures, and memes. We find ways to reach out while staying in. As I've scrolled and clicked these past few days, I've seen all kinds of ways that people are using to distract themselves, entertain themselves, educate themselves or otherwise pass the time of our collective self-isolation. There's any number of possible ways to do this, but I've noticed one way in particular that comes up in my feeds again and again. Books.
"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." -- Mason Cooley
I have seen this quote multiple times over the past few weeks. Another post suggests that Narnia, Asgard, Hogwarts, Middle-Earth, and other fictional realms would make excellent places to ride out our current lockdown. These sentiments remind me of the unique ability of books to transport us to different places and times, all within our minds. Books give us a way to escape our current reality.
Books can also provide comfort. Some people are re-reading favorite books to re-live the stories that brought them such joy the first time around. Others are turning to books from their childhoods or young adult years to regain a sense of innocence.
Books can challenge us. A report by The Guardian this week showed that book sales are significantly higher in the UK for longer novels and classic fiction. It seems some readers are using quarantine time as quality time for tackling their "bucket list" of books, including notoriously difficult works by James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, and others.
Books educate us. Some are reading about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, hoping learning about the past will help inform our response to the present crisis. Others read to build skill in their current profession or to gain skills which will serve them in their next endeavor.
Books give us more, more distraction, more comfort, more knowledge, more hope, than what we can muster just within ourselves. I'm not surprised to see that books are playing a special role for so many people during this time. I work in an academic library. We were abruptly told not to return to work when the reach of the coronavirus gripped our community. We were allowed to return to the library during a window of a few hours several days later to get what we might need to work at home. I had several things I wanted to retrieve from my desk. I also went right to the stacks, becoming the last person to check out items from my library for the rest of the semester. I got books for my children and a few books for me. When you have nowhere to go but everywhere, you need to pack a few supplies.
What are you reading right now? Do you find yourself reaching for books of a certain genre or author? Take care during these uncertain times. Be well, and Healthy Reading!