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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The “classic” debate: to read or not to read?

Classic literature has been the talk of the town since lockdown began, as people turn to those dense, un-read books cluttering up their bookshelves. I have seen arguments floating around that claim classics are not relevant in today’s world – which is a premise I find interesting. I agree that no one should read classics just for the sake of it, but would hate to think we shouldn’t read them, just because they don’t reflect the society we live in.

The “yes” argument

Firstly, the most basic one – there is a reason classics are classics. It usually means they’re good, right? Attaining the classic status isn’t easy and there’s usually a reason that a book has one. As readers, we may disagree with its status, however, they are usually deserving in some respect.

Personally, I like reading classics because of the historical element. When writing a book, the author either consciously or unconsciously is writing in response to their specific social and cultural climate. Reading classics take you to that author’s past and you are able to see the world through their eyes.

I’ve said it before, but I have always felt like classics offer us a unique window of opportunity into another time or place . Take James Joyce, for example, I haven’t read anything by him myself, but I’m aware that his writing has been credited for this ability. As well as Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Jack Kerouac and many others.

No one should read a classic because they feel they ‘have’ to or that to be a reader you need to read classics – this isn’t true at all. You should read what you want, as simple as that. However, I do find that when finishing classics I get a different sense of accomplishment. Classic literature can be hard to read with the language often being very different to our own, some works can be heavy and dense and these are all things that the modern reader isn’t trained for. Not because of the kind of literature being written now – but because of our tuning into social media, which encourages us to read things in the quickest time possible. I don’t know about you, but my attention span during lockdown has definitely gotten worse…

I truly believe that reading a classic once in a while does a very good job of working your brain and making you understand the world in a way you hadn’t viewed it before. Of course, there are good and bad classics but there’s nothing like the sense of achievement when you realise you connected with a book written decades ago.

The “no” argument

The term “classic” is very vague, and one we have created ourselves because of popularity or to what extent books have influenced the literary genre. Additionally, just because a book is popular, doesn’t mean it is going to be good. I still don’t understand the current obsession with Normal People… It is easy to obsess over status and how well a book has supposedly changed the world; when sometimes readers just won’t connect with the story. You are allowed to dislike a classic! Some examples of mine include The Graduate by Charles Webb and Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger.

Image: Medium

Essentially, what I’m saying is that “classics” are man made and pre-loaded with expectations because of their status. This can give us a false sense of hope and already influence our opinion on what the book will be like.

I sometimes think the categorisation of books into “classics” and “non-classics” creates some kind of hierarchy which we sub consciously take note of when choosing books to read. It also breeds this notion that somehow if you read classics, your’re more intelligent which is obviously ludicrous. However, when I was younger I definitely thought this was the case – I even had a list of the 100 Books You Must Read Before You Die printed out, and tried to make may way through them. I don’t do that now but this is an example of the kind of reading mindset that “classics” can influence.

Additionally, books given a “classic” status many years ago, were more often, the best on offer in an age dominated by white, male authors. Obviously society has changed a huge amount and we have a more diverse range of authors to choose from, but this argument does have some significance. We should always be viewing classics in perspective – as they are a product of the time in which they were written.

Or you could just say when categorizing books we are simply thinking too deeply. Maybe I even am in writing this post – but I think it’s an interesting discussion to have.

Image: Pixabay

My experience with classics

As I said, I used to be one of those people who obsessed over classics, as a result I have made my way through a fair amount. It barely even crosses my mind now, as I pick a book to read based on if I like the sound of it, or other peoples’ recommendations and what I know about the author. That said, I do still have an ongoing appreciation and respect for classics, but more the “modern classic” variety such as George Orwell, John Steinbeck, John Fowles and Ian McEwan (oh dear they are all men…)

If you’re interested, you can still access this same list I had printed out as a young teenager. I have now read 42 out of the 100, not that it matters but I thought some of you might be interested!

On a lighter note, some of my favourite classics include: The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Jane Eyre, 1984, On The Road and To Kill a Mockingbird,

What do you think about classics? Do you read them? I’d be curious to know your thoughts!

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

Reading in progress: Ducks, Newburyport

Image: Galley Beggar Press

I am almost four hundred pages into Lucy Ellmann’s 2019 Booker prize shortlisted work, which would usually be pretty much near the end of a usual paperback. However, it feels like I have a life time to go before I reach the final end. Trust me, I am enjoying it really (in bouts).

I was drawn to reading the novel, I admit, slightly because of its reputation but more because of its standout title and appearance. Featuring a blue cover with a rubber duck on the inside jacket, accompanied by the prestige of a Booker prize nominee sticker – I thought, what could go wrong?

The truth be told – I have gone through waves of loving and hating this book. However, one thing is for sure, I have never read anything like it and I definitely admire it for its attempt to re-work the barriers of fiction and the message it is trying to convey. In sense, I feel connected to it as the main character has all the types of worries and weird thoughts as I do.

And it feels especially relatable at the moment, considering Donald Trump’s recent actions in Iran.

Overall, despite its (at times) frustrating lack of format and order; I am drawn to the Ohio housewife’s critique of the world; especially contemporary American issues, however, I admit, I am missing the traditional structures of the novel. Chapters, dialogue, charaterisation and background. But I can’t help thinking, perhaps that’s the very point?

Upon finishing, I will update in due course.