Ah. It’s not just me – it’s you! Or many of you.
Nearly 100 people took the time to reply to my recent column that I was almost unable to read for several weeks over the winter due to the combination of the pandemic, lockdown, tense politics, and everything else over the winter. I worried that was it; my career was over; Time to retire. What is left if a book editor can’t read books?
But it turns out that many of you are struggling with the same cause.
“I thought I was the only one,” wrote Sunny Floum from Minneapolis. “Thanks for opening this hidden topic.”
Lynn Mathis of Burnsville wrote, “Thank you for letting me know I’m not crazy. I can’t read now and haven’t been since Christmas. It’s scary. I have a pile waiting for me, but I’m leaving instead . Maybe I can read again by spring. “
While most of you haven’t given up on books, what you’ve read has changed. Jackie Maas from Plymouth turned to the dream material: travel books and gardening books and “books with beautiful photos of sheds and conservatories”.
Some turned to old favorites for convenience. “The books I have loved most over the past year are well-known authors, old favorites, quick reads, and neatly drawn stories,” said Anne Twiss of Glencoe, Minn.
Krista Finstad Hanson of St. Paul has spent lockdown reading from her own shelves. While requesting and receiving some anti-racism books for Christmas, “my stacks of books, which span six bookshelves, have asked me to read what I have and what I no longer want,” she wrote.
And secrets – secrets were a godsend. “Like others, I read lighter fiction and mystery, books I used to avoid, but now I see that entertainment has value too,” wrote Karen Storm of Minneapolis. “The biggest change I’ve made is reading magazines for about an hour before bed. I’ve read all of May Sarton’s and I can attest that ‘Journal of a Solitude’ is one of their best.”
Sheri Kump from Apple Valley is fighting her shorter attention spans with podcasts and audiobooks. “I strongly recommend listening to the ‘No Stupid Questions’ podcast, episode 30 (Why Do We Seek Comfort in the Familiar?),” She wrote.
Laura Zlogar, a retired literature teacher in River Falls, Wisconsin, has found that her reading time and attention is focused almost entirely on the news. And when she picked up a book, “I couldn’t concentrate on challenging reading,” she wrote.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reading mysteries, mostly British, and watching police proceedings on Acorn and Netflix. I even found a fascination with those from Iceland, Sweden, Poland, France and elsewhere. Perhaps by looking into different cultures as well.” Languages deepened into actions and characters in which ambiguities are sorted to the end, this has made our own political and medical crises viable. “
Barbara Ankrum from Vadnais Heights keeps a diary of the books she reads every year. “After the entries in March, I wrote, ‘Then COVID hit and I couldn’t read for months,'” she said. “It was so unexpected, confusing and disruptive to me. In late fall when I picked up books again, they were what I call ‘fluff’ books – easy reading, entertaining topics, somewhat predictable, endings all well tied together.”
But things are getting better. “I never finished the first three books I started in January,” she said. “I have a feeling, however, that the routine of reading itself, no matter what topic is right, is back and that’s a great relief. I couldn’t imagine never wanting to read again.”
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