How Lockdown changed my reading habits

Are you leaving lockdown wishing you had read more? The experience of lockdown across the world lead to a kind of ‘reading revolution’ as we all had more time on our hands, but will this continue?

Our reading habits may have changed for better or for worse during this period, but in this post I am going to share with you how lockdown altered my habits, with the hope that it may encourage you to reflect on yours.

1. Treating reading like a job

This could be interpreted as positive or negative, but lockdown meant that I have not been at work and I had to take up something to fill the empty days with.

I started reaching out to people, became a member of NetGalley and all of a sudden had more opportunities to review books for people and companies. Working to deadlines and reading less of what I wanted has made it feel like more of a job, but definitely not a chore.

Reading has therefore, become more like a job, but one I have come to love.

Image: Violet Daniels

2. Abandoning TBRs

I love making lists of any kinds and I have always had some form of TBR going.

Having more review requests has meant I have strayed away from my personal TBR list, which I have come to realise isn’t a bad thing.

Reading habits change all the time and so do the books we want to read, sometimes it feels counterproductive to have a list to stick to. Sticking to this wholeheartedly could close down books we expose ourselves to. Everyday we learn about new books and it becomes easy to stray away from our reading plans. But so what?

I still have my TBR but I am definitely not following it strictly.

3. Realising less is more

Lockdown has played havoc for my concentration. I have found that I can only read for 15-20 minutes at a time before I start to lose focus. But on the other hand, I find myself actually picking up books more times in the day – so they probably balance each other out.

Previously, I used to try and read as much as I could in one session, as I probably only had one opportunity every day to read whilst working. But now with my time being more flexible I can read less but more frequently, which I like.

Image: Violet Daniels

4. Diversifying my reading choices

The exposure of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me realise how white my reading choices are.

I am now making a conscious effort to read more by authors of colour, especially women of colour who are majorly underrepresented in the literary industry. I am aiming to read at least one book written by a BAME author per month in an effort to diversify my reading habits.

Last month I read My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and this month I aim to read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. These are small actions but a step in the right direction, which I would encourage everyone to take.

5. Using a Kindle more

As I am receiving more books to review, these are usually in the form of e-ARCs which means I am using my Kindle a lot. I’ve also been reading outside more and Kindle’s are perfect for this.

They are lighter and easier to hold whilst being out and about and I have been enjoying using it. Obviously, it’s no replacement for the physical book, but definitely a game changer for being able to carry so much reading material on the go.

6. Books are my perfect form of escapism

Some people watch TV, films or play video games to switch off, but I read. I think I have always known this, but lockdown has really shown I do turn to alternative worlds to escape the present.

Whether it’s fiction or non fiction, I have found reading takes me away from the present and the unrelenting news cycle that can cause havoc for anxious people like me. It is perfect one to one time, a form of self care, and a break from everything that is going on.

So those were reflections on how my reading habits have fluctuated during this period. I think it’s important to remember that habits will always shift during our lives. We should never beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our own standards or stray away from our goals, but acknowledge it when it’s necessary and go from there. Have your reading habits changed, if so, how?

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Currently reading: a tag

I came across this neat little tag from Blair’s blog, you can see the post here. Looked like fun so I thought I’d join in… Here goes.

How many books do you usually read at once?

Now, when I was younger I used to be so bad at this and find myself reading five or six books at once. I’ve learned to reign this in a bit and now usually read between 2-3. Most of the time I read one fiction or one non-fiction or will be breading one physical book, mixed between an eBook on my Kindle.

Do you ever switch bookmarks partway through a book?

Nope – to be honest I struggle to use a bookmark most of the time I read.. Usually it’s a random piece of paper or a sticky note! Or worse.. a folded down page (:o)

Where do you keep the book(s) you’re currently reading?

They usually end up all over the place to be honest! But I tend to place them on the arm of the sofa where I like to curl up and read, or my Kindle will be on my bedside table.

What time of day do you read most?

It tends to be in the morning – during isolation I’ve been reading first thing when I get up as my brain feels freshest, I usually use this time to read non-fiction. I tend to read more fiction in the evening or before bed as it requires less concentration…

How long do you typically read in one session?

If it’s a short snippet, anywhere between 30-50 pages. If I read for an hour or so it will be more than that, but it depends on the book (and if I’m enjoying it or not haha)

Do you read hardbacks with the dust jacket off?

Always try and avoid hardbacks at all cost but YES the jacket has to be removed so it doesn’t get scuffed and flap about, can’t deal with that.

What position do you mainly use to read?

Usually curled up on the sofa or in my bed with my knees up, resting the book on a pillow. But I can read on my Kindle in any position as it’s so lightweight.

Do you take your current read with you everywhere you go?

Usually – yes. When I’m working I like to read my book on the commute and on lunch breaks. But alas, I am not working at the moment due to COVID-19.

How often do you update your Goodreads reading progress?

Usually only at the end, but the other day I did a mini review in the middle of a read, which was interesting. Sometimes it can be nice to know what people think mid way through a read I think.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

  1. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
  2. Green and Pleasant Land by Stephen Shahbazian (a Reedsy book, still awaiting publication)
  3. Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac

I tag… (and anyone else who wants to do it too!)

What I read in March ~ 2020

March was a difficult month for me, for many reasons. But that’s why reading became even more important than usual, in providing perfect escapism.

We’re all probably finding we are reading more, or want to, due to isolation. It’s the perfect time to escape in a book! For me, there’s nothing better than sharing reading habits and recommendations, so give this a read if you are looking for some inspiration.

In just a few lines each, I am wrapping up what I read in March. What did you read in March? Let me know in the comments.

Supermarket, Bobby Hall (4/5)

Gripping, weird, and fast paced. The reader lives behind the mind of a protagonist who is a mentally unstable, aspiring writer. It explores themes of mental health and life as a young adult in a psychological thriller style. Ending with a shocking twist – I found this book brilliant, and subsequently, so underrated.

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro, Christine Féret-Fleury (5/5)

A glorious book about spreading the love of books. Follow Juliette, as she explores Paris and uncovers a unique, hidden bookshop in the city. She becomes a passeur, spending her time delivering books to people in the city who need them. Simple, but lovely.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell (5/5)

Gordon is working in an advertising industry he despises, whilst trying to make it as a writer. He gives up this job to work in a bookshop and have more time to write. Will he make it? Orwell at his best – revealing, insightful and uplifting.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (4/5)

Told through Thomas Cromwell, this is the Tudor story through a different perspective. Henry VIII is desperate to get an annulment for his marriage so he can pursue Anne Boleyn and provide a male heir to continue the Tudor line. Change and religious tension is on the rise and Cromwell is at the forefront. Fantastic!

How to Stop Time, Matt Haig (3/5)

Tom Hazard is over 400 years old. He has lived many lives but made endless sacrifices. Now, he just wants to settle down with those he loves. But can you, after 400 years? Cheezy and a bit cliche, but ends with a heart warming message. One way to stop time, is to simply stop thinking about it – and live.

Summary and thoughts

So my average rating for books I read in March was 4.2, I’m always a bit on the generous side anyway, but I did really enjoy all the books I read this month. I especially loved the Orwell and was pleasantly surprised by Wolf Hall, in not being a regular historical-fiction reader. How to Stop Time disappointed me somewhat, as I usually love Matt Haig’s writing and due to the good reviews, feel I should have liked it more. Nonetheless, it was a great reading month.

I’m starting off my reading for April with Hiroshima by John Hersey, in an attempt to read more non-fiction. As ever, I’m sure reading for the next month will be providing me with escapism and comfort in these weird and difficult times.

Happy reading! 🙂 And let me know if you end up reading any of these.

Monthly stats

Total pages read: 1,718

Total books: 5

Average rating: 4.2/5

The ultimate book tag

Image: Pixabay

This one is just a bit of fun and a chance to get to know me! Copied from https://cupsandthoughts.com/ (actually one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own!)

Do you get sick whilst reading in the car?

Nope! I once read the whole of Jane Eyre in a single car journey and have been known to finish more than one book (depending on its length!) in a journey.

Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you and why?

That’s a tough question… I’m torn between Haruki Murakami and Donna Tartt. The way in which they both tell a story is completely unique and something I have never come across before. They both craft characters and protagonists in such an in depth way which means I’ve always felt a connection to them. Tartt especially – for her use of stream of consciousness in the characterization of Theodore Deckcer – that was an entirely new reading experience. By the end of the book, it felt like I knew him as I would a close friend.

Harry Potter Series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.

Have been a devoted fan to both but Harry Potter all the way. The creation of such a unique and complex world so alike and yet so different from our own, the way you witness the characters grow up over the series, that’s pretty special, and the way it deals with complex topics (death, love, family etc) for a relatively young audience.

Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is it in (besides books…)?

What’s the difference between a bag and a book bag? I don’t think I carry a book bag but I always carry a book with me in my bag…

Do you smell your books?

All the time. I smell them before buying and a lot during my time reading them, maybe too much? I’m reading Big Sky at the moment and that smells amazing, I keep having to take ‘smell breaks’ – I much prefer the smell of second hand books though.

 Books with or without little illustrations?

Without – that way there’s more room for words… I like to read the words and create the image for myself, but sometimes it can be interesting to have illustrations.

What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing? (Ex. I read Twilight before I read HP and thought the writing was amazing but read HP and now think Twilight is a little bit of a joke.)

Probably the Dan Brown series (Angels and Demons) – amazing to read in terms of the story line, the detail and everything but the writing is actually really bad (spelling and grammar) which I didn’t realise at the time as I was so engrossed in the story.

Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!

I was always reading above my supposed age bracket when it came to books but I think it was when I was in year 5 (between age 10-11) and we had to read aloud to our teacher once a week which was something I never minded… At the time I was reading The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman, which I think is technically YA.. ANYWAY I was reading it aloud to my teacher and realised I was reading to her a sex scene and it was very awkward. I think she wrote a note to my mum in my reading log telling her she might want to keep on track of my reading hahaaa…

 What is the thinnest book on your shelf?

Probably my collection of George Orwell’s essays, published by Penguin.

What is the thickest book on your shelf?

Ducks, Newburyport (Lucy Ellmann) and The Little Friend (Donna Tartt.)

 Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?

I do, flippantly and when I can. I would love to be an author one day, but I honestly don’t know if I’m any good at writing or if anyone would want to read it… haha

When did you get into reading?

I would say properly 7 onwards. I went through the care system between the ages 4-6 and I found a lot of comfort in reading (I didn’t like talking to people at all at this point) and especially Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker. So that started me off really, also just generally growing up in a family that loves books and reading helps.

What is your favorite classic book?

Cliche, but it will probably always be The Great Gatsby.

In school was your best subject Language/Arts/English?

It was always a battle between English and History. I was slightly better at History which is why I studied it at University.

 If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated…what would you do?

Give it to a Oxfam book shop or other charity shop.

What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games?

Probably more similar to Twilight, but I loved the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick.

What is a bad habit you always do (besides rambling) while blogging?

Probably just writing SO much and having to massively edit it otherwise no one would even think about reading it.

What is your favorite word?

Poignant, nonchalant, irreconcilable (purely because I think they sound nice…)

 Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?

Probably a bit of a dork – I was definitely as a child anyway. Likely still am.

 Vampires or Fairies? Why?

Vampires – I will always have a soft spot for Edward Cullen as I grew up with the Twilight series… and was always Team Edward 😉

 Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?

Angels – they are far more complex than they seem. You can get good and bad angels or ‘fallen’ angels (read Hush Hush.)

 Spirits or Werewolves? Why?

Werewolves – much fluffier, and they would keep you warm if you became friends.

 Zombies or Vampires?

Vampires… always.

Love Triangle or Forbidden Love

Forbidden love, usually makes for a more interesting story.

 AND FINALLY: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?

Action packed with a few love scenes mixed in. Don’t think I have ever read a full on romance book.

Feel free to copy and fill in your own answers! 🙂

Going back to Orwell: 70 years on

The Essays of Orwell: Books Vs Cigarettes 1946

Before thinking about writing this post, it hadn’t occurred to me that today is the 70th anniversary of George Orwell’s death, until reading something published by the BBC. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about his life, his writing and political outlook.

Who was George Orwell?

Known most for Animal Farm and 1984, Eric Blair, writing under the pen name, George Orwell, has come to be one of the most famous author’s of the twentieth century. Born in Bengal, Orwell would go on to win two scholarships at two prestigious English schools, Wellington and Eton.

After completing his education, Orwell became an Imperial Servant. This was the beginning of the period in which Orwell was manifesting his political outlook, in 1928, he resigned from the post, as influenced by rising anti-imperialist sentiment.

After this experience; Orwell tried to immerse himself in the realities of deprivation; he donned rags as he went to London’s East End and the poorest areas of Paris. Which later, formed the book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). This is often cited as Orwell’s first socialist memoir and insight into poverty. Later publishing, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) which is an even greater exploration of these themes. Wigan Pier deals with the conditions that working-class individuals were experiencing in Lancashire and Yorkshire, before the outbreak of World War Two.

Orwell is remembered primarily because of 1984, but during his time, he was a prolific figure in the more radical politics of the day. He was first of all, a self confessed anarchist, then came out as a socialist in the 1930s, against the rising tide of fascism. After being rejected for military service during the Second World War, he began working for the left-wing magazine, Tribune in 1943.

In this post however, it is not his novels I want to talk about, but rather, his essays. Having read 1984, Down and Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm and The Clergyman’s Daughter, I thought I knew Orwell quite well, until I started to discover his essays. This post in particular, will be discussing one essay, titled, “Books Vs Cigarettes” which Orwell published in 1946 in the Tribune.

Books Vs Cigarettes (1946)

Writing in 1946, after the end of World War Two, this essay is in response to the idea that reading is an expensive and inaccessible past time. This idea is often thwarted about in our own society, with the assumption it is a privilege that people in 9-5’s cannot afford. Orwell is therefore, critiquing the assumption that reading is a luxury activity.

Orwell in a convincing argument, states that mundane habits such as smoking and drinking, will cost the average person (per year) more than it would to sustain a reading habit. He details his own spending, Orwell was a heavy smoker himself, which cost him more than he spent on books per year.

Take this framework into today. The average Netflix, Amazon Prime or Spotify subscription probably amounts to being able to buy 1-2 new paperbacks per month. Or even better, when buying secondhand, probably 3-5, or even more, depending on the price. Orwell makes the point that there are far more expensive habits which are permitted among the populous, but reading is discounted as being a costly luxury.

Orwell also emphasizes the importance of buying second-hand books and borrowing from local libraries, friends or family which I think is important to point out. Reading doesn’t have to be an expensive habit, nor does it have to revolve around you owning the material you are consuming.

Additionally – Orwell goes on to highlight that the value of reading should not be purely in monetary terms, as one book can have a lifelong impact. (Indeed, 1984 itself is often sighted as a book which has changed the outlook of many readers, myself included.)

The impact of reading one book is worth more than its monetary cost, due to the longevity of the ideas it can plant,

“There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one’s mind and alter one’s attitude to life…”

George Orwell, “Books Vs Cigarettes,” 1946.

Final thoughts

Thus, in sum, Orwell argues that in fact, reading is one of the cheapest forms of, “recreations” and it is wrong to assume books are “less exciting” or not so worthy of spending time on. I feel this point is significantly applicable to now – with evenings easily absorbed by Instagram or watching YouTube on the loop. Reading is in fact, one of the most worthwhile past times, which does not have to cost you an arm and a leg.

On the anniversary of Orwell’s death; perhaps this should serve as a reminder that books are powerful and some books certainly leave their marks; on the way we think, view the world, and form opinions; in the most permanent of ways.

Furthermore, reading is not a luxury but a form of “recreation,” which is often brushed under the carpet in an age of so many other forms of entertainment. What would Orwell think? We can only guess.

I will be attempting to read as many of Orwell’s essays this year as I can, to try and understand the way he thought, and how this influenced his writing. I will keep you updated!

References

https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Orwell/Animal-Farm-and-Nineteen-Eighty-four

Link to the article: https://orwell.ru/library/articles/cigar/english/e_cigar

This is interesting too, was published by the BBC today: https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/would-george-orwell-have-had-a-smartphone/p080x74t