COVID transforms all of us into readers

Have you read a good book lately?

Chances are, you have, or maybe you’ve read a not-so-good book lately. The point being, there’s been a lot more reading going on during this plodding pandemic we’re all caught up in.

Statistics show that more people’s noses are buried deep into books or smushed flatly onto eReader screens as we all seek a little escapism these days.

Sure, our couch-potato TV time has increased astronomically pretty much everywhere, but for newbie readers and book nerds alike, this lengthy lockdown has been an unexpected opportunity to wander into the wonderful world of word stories.

But it’s interesting how books fit into different people’s lives, isn’t it? I have one good friend who has never read a book in his life, and isn’t about to start now.

Another mutual friend of ours devours four or five books a week, every week. His idea of an excellent time is to take an empty cardboard box, travel to his favourite book stores (often in a different province) and fill that box with new books to read and relish.

And once the books are hoovered up, he keeps most of them on shelves, like trophies. His basement is full of bursting bookshelves.

I think my friend reads anything and everything, including the back of cereal boxes and the fine print on spray cans, but in these days of the pandemic, I’m betting that fluff fiction is the go-to genre for most people.

In fact, statistics show that mystery, romance, thriller and suspense literature is currently in high demand. Books on travel – not so much.

But guess what other category is big these days? You guessed it: children’s books. Yes, when you’ve got munchkins stuck at home, and bored and driving you crazy, good old Harry Potter can come to the rescue.

And understandably, there’s another kind of book that is quite popular: self-help/family relationship books.

It’s no surprise that expert advice on how to cope seems to be finding its way into the midst of many strained family constellations during this claustrophobic lockdown.

And right up there on the list are, of course, cook books, as evidenced by the widespread phenomenon I like to call Pandemic Pound Packing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the general cumulative weight of human poundage hasn’t put unprecedented pressure on the surface of the Earth during this time of increased snacks and decreased movement. Watch out for earthquakes.

Personally, when I’m not snacking, I like to dive into a deep detective novel or take a trip into another person’s life through a fascinating biography.

It’s always interesting to find out you’ve got the solution to the mystery completely wrong, and that famous person you’ve admired for so long is a bigger moron than you are.

I always have to read before I go to sleep. I’ve always been like that, and often, that bedtime ritual used to result in it somehow becoming 2 a.m. and, as they say, I still can’t put the book down.

This happened quite often when I was in college and the grandma of my girlfriend (the future Better Half) gave me a box full of Agatha Christie novels. I didn’t get much studying done. Or sleeping, for that matter.

In fact, I’m rereading some good old Agatha these days. But I’m lucky if I can make it through a chapter anymore. It’s not that the wonderful stories of the Queen of Crime have gotten old and tired; it’s just that it seems that the reader has.

Maybe I’ll go back to where I started for my nighttime reading. Comic books. They’re still 10 cents each, aren’t they?

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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