Daily Life,  Lifestyle,  Thoughts

Why We’re Reading (Or Not) During the Pandemic

Have your reading habits changed over the past year?

I’ve heard that many people have been reading less than ever before, as this interesting Refinery 29 article states. Some people seem to find it hard to concentrate. As this isn’t my case, I wondered why that would be, and the article mentions that since last March, people’s thoughts seem to drift towards our current situation and what’s in the news or the lack of social contact we’ve been having. This leads to checking the news, doom-scrolling Twitter or checking up on friends online instead of picking up our books, perhaps. I know a big reader who has been playing Animal Crossing for stress-relief reasons (it is excellent stress relief!) instead of finishing books as usual.

Other people simply haven’t been reading as much because of the change to their routine – this is exactly my partner Alex’s case. He used to read on his train commutes, but as he doesn’t leave the house very much now, this time once carved out for reading just simply evaporated. This was actually my case with listening to music once I moved to Europe. I used to spend over ninety minutes a day (I can’t believe it either) commuting from North Seattle to downtown and back and it was primo music listening time. Eventually over the first two years abroad, I realized that I wasn’t as happy as music was largely missing from my life, but it took me a long time to put my finger on exactly why. I had to consciously sit down and decide when would be good times to listen to music, which sounds a little funny to write out, but is true. Everything had to be rearranged, and it’s just as true as today during our lockdown life.

If this is your case, as long as you’re aware that something you miss (like reading) actually is absent and you care about its return, I think it’s easy enough to schedule some reading into one’s day. I work a ton (by Czech-expat standards, that is) and I still manage it. For me, that is every single night, for between thirty minutes to one hour before I go to sleep. On weekend mornings, I get my best reading time in as I get up early and read in bed for up to two hours sometimes before getting up! This works pretty well for me, as my days are reserved for work and personal study, and pre-bedtime is for all those delicious TV shows or films.

I read that whole Refinery 29 article thinking, “oh, well this isn’t my case – perhaps I’m in the minority reading more than ever!” Then I arrived at the end of the article, which states

Despite the number of obstacles, the pressure we put on ourselves to read remains high. As something that is ‘good for you’ and requires a lot of time, the scene for reading seems set with the constant lockdowns. But in the current environment, the idea that we should read adds to the pressure we put on ourselves to focus.

Books have long been a safe haven for me. During my last trip home, I found it so soothing to read amid the rigid social visiting schedule we had set for ourselves. (that and naps, long naps) However, as I was telling a friend not long ago, reading for me has recently started to feel like an academic exercise and less just having fun or relaxing. Of course, before the pandemic, there was always the annoying deadline for library books; trying to read everything you’ve checked out in a three-week window. Now there is that, plus all these book prompts and clubs I involved myself with – books I’ve foisted upon myself in the name of productivity, learning and fun, but when you are spending most of the month reading what has been assigned for you to read rather than what you’d actually want to read, my relationship with reading becomes more and more strained.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been coping with all this by throwing myself headfirst into a pool of learning, but this doesn’t always feel great, and adds a weird extra pressure or weight on my shoulders. Alex sometimes has to force me (yes) to play video games so I relax a bit and can break free of the rigorous leisure routine I’ve set myself. I think this is just a winter phase and know that things will change when the days become warmer and the pandemic situation improves here.

Meanwhile, that’s where I’m at. Looking forward to more free time in the coming months. And dreaming of a cottage trip in which it’s just me, an empty room (or preferably outdoor space), a stack paperbacks, and no internet. Maybe a dachshund. Or dual reading sessions with somebody nice.

Which of these reading personalities are you right now? I definitely recommend reading the article if you are intrigued by this kind of thing.

As for now, it’s Friday evening after a long, unpleasant week and I have my weird assigned book to get back to. Only mere hours ’til reading in bed can commence! Have a nice weekend, everyone. Let’s (try to) relax.