25th March, 2020

Bookish Stuff: Reading in Times of Corona (Ramblings from my self-isolation book fort)

So, it is the Corocalypse, and the whole world seems to have come to something resembling a stand-still. Whole countries are under lockdown, shops are closed, people are staying home and trying to make the best of the situation. All of this is highly stressful and causing a lot of anxieties. There are tons of websites on the net speculating about what will happen, and there are just as many lists of things for people to do to relieve those nasty anxieties. 

I'm sure you've already guessed (it wasn't such a hard guess after all), but for me literature has always been a source of comfort. Whether I was feeling low because of a bad breakup or due to stress at work, books have always been my go-to "security blanket". And now as well, I find myself seeking comfort and distraction in fiction and poetry, rereading old favourites and using the time to explore new writers as well. (Of course this is just me, and I've heard from a lot of people that they have trouble concentrating right now and can't really get into a story. This is totally understandable and I think it's important to say that no reader should stress themselves if this is simply not the time for them to read. We are all unique and react to this global crisis in different ways. So this is just my personal experience that I'm sharing here.) 

Ever since we've heard on the news that shops would have to close here in Germany, I've been worried about my favourite retail places and about my local indie bookshop in particular. After all, they rely on their customers and for a lot of businesses the danger of going bankrupt is more real than ever. Thankfully, our bookshop hasn't shut down completely and is now running a contactless delivery service. Ignoring my bank account completely, I've already put in two orders this week and received the second one yesterday afternoon  - in a cute colourful bag that was hanging from my doorknob including a friendly little wave from afar from our bookseller. In these times when personal contact is limited that friendly wave meant so much, and it felt a little bit like Christmas and my birthday thrown together to get this bag of books. 

This is in fact one thing I've noticed in the past few weeks: All of a sudden I find that I'm living more consciously. I appreciate everyday things a lot more and am amazed at certain developments, such as that our air seems so much fresher and crisper now that there are less cars and planes zipping around the streets and skies. Also, maybe particularly because we have the kid at home and have to try and entertain a 6-year-old all day (Someone send help!), I savour the extremely limited quiet time that I now have even more. The husband and I have agreed on each of us getting certain "free" time slots during the day when we can work undisturbed or do "our thing" while the other is playing Lego, drawing giant crayon rainbows in the driveway or other such fun kid stuff. I love my family to pieces but I'm an introvert who normally needs a bit of private time and being stuck in the house together all day for weeks can be taxing. So this is where my books come in. During my "free time" or once the kid is tucked in, I'm getting lost in my stories. It may be escapism at its finest, but - hey - all is fair in times of trouble, right? So be it Anne, the March sisters, bookwandering Tilly or the latest Ellingham Academy whodunnit - it feels good to dive into these tales where life is so different from ours right now. 

I'm sure we'll all see the world in a different light once all of this is over, and I hope we'll be able to keep some of the mindfulness and compassion that I've been witnessing all over. And until we're getting out on the other side of this, stories will keep us going. That's how it's been ever since humans invented language and that's probably how it will always be: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." (Joan Didion)

I hope you're all staying safe. Keep calm, read on, and remember that the answer to everything is always "42". :-) I'd also love to hear your strategies in these difficult times so feel free to leave something in the comments. 

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All texts and photographs are mine, unless indicated otherwise.