Reading My Way Through the Pandemic

I find that one of the few pleasures of this time is reading. I am reading more than usual, but with no children to chase around, I have more time than many other people. For me it is submersion. The world transforms down under. Sounds are muffled, things around me blur, I float for a time in a different time and place. When I pop back up, the world looks different – crisper, fresher, sounds are magnified.

What am I reading? My reading has become more indiscriminate because it is the act of reading itself that I crave. This summer I have read mysteries by Charles Todd, Louise Penney, Henning Mankell, Anne Cleeves, Martin Walker. I have also worked in some more serious reading: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and Humankind by Rutger Bregman, Thomas Jefferson, by John Meacham. My favorite nonfictions by far have been The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson, and The Library Book, by Susan Orleans.

My friend and sister have been supplying me with fiction.  I go to see my friend every couple of weeks for a driveway visit. We sit on chairs six feet apart in her driveway, raising our voices to hear each other. She says we’re like the women sitting on the stoop in her old neighborhood in NYC. She places two books on top of the trashcan between us. I pick them up and leave the books from the last visit, then we talk.

My sister lives in Greece. Every few weeks, I get a gift in my email, an ebook to download, or a used book in the mail. I never know what she will send. These I read at night on my Kindle. Some of the standouts: The Flight Portfolio by Julie Ollinger, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave. Another sister passes on books she is pruning from her shelves. Last week she gave me Hamnet, a novel based on Shakespeare’s son who died young. A different friend in London sent me Margot Livesey’s new book, The Boy in the Field. I’m excited about reading both of these.

Growing up, my mother or father read to us every night, so I suppose reading has always been associated with comfort and security and love for me. So, I burrow under the covers and read, shutting out all news of death and fevers, swindles and machinations, fires and hurricanes. Ah…

What has your favorite pandemic reading been?

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