These are scary times, Bookaholics. Two months ago my worst worries were trite trivialities like what to buy for dinner and how I would find time to clear my chaotic closet. Now I will happily eat whatever I can source in a ransacked supermarket (food wise, that is – I haven’t resorted to frying with face cream just yet) and have lots of time at home to dedicate to mundane household chores (although I am still pretty busy with other essential life tasks like slobbing on the sofa and watching reruns of Friends). As someone who is prone to chronic anxiety, I have decided the best way to approach a situation I cannot control is to rebrand social distancing as an exciting experiment in isolation: like Big Brother but without the cameras, or The Shining, but without the psychotic breakdown. (OK, bad example. I won’t be letting anyone ride a tricycle down my hall). So here are my top tips for how we can utilise our love of literature to keep us sane over the coming weeks of segregation:
1) Use the internet to reach out to like-minded literary lovers. There are online book clubs (fear not, you can still drink wine – in fact as a bonus you get the whole bottle to yourself), communities where people come together to discuss all things novel-related (I highly recommend the For Reading Addicts page on Facebook, it’s awesome) and even forums where you can debate at length how terrible the casting was of your favourite character when Hollywood decided to get involved. (Daniel Radcliffe will never be my Harry Potter). If the people you follow post things that make you anxious, remove them. Limit yourself to twice a day news updates and use the rest of the time to bask in a bubble-bath of books. (Metaphorically speaking. Please don’t actually get them wet. That rarely ends well).
2) That being said, tip 2 is to choose your texts wisely in these times of turmoil. It’s probably not sensible to read anything relating to deadly viruses or people dying en masse (or The Shining, for that matter). It could be fun to push yourself right out of your comfort zone and pick something entirely different to anything you’ve read before. Thanks to one of my book clubs, I recently devoured Artemis by Andy Weir, a sci-fi thriller set on the moon. It was about as radical a change from the norm for me as it could be but I really enjoyed it. Go rogue. You might surprise yourself. (I have a copy of 50 Shades of Grey on my shelf that I need to apply this advice to. I’m a little bit scared. Wish me luck).
3) If you are limited to ordering online, think about doing this from local, independent stores rather than Amazon (which, let’s be honest, would probably survive a nuclear holocaust let alone something like COVID-19). Why not ring up the bookseller and ask for their recommendations over the phone? You might just make a new friend and they will be glad of the contact. So many businesses are going to struggle, let’s do all we can to help them.
4) Finally, let’s use the Bookaholic Bex community to support each other. Over the last 2 years I have built up a steady following of some 219 people (not that I have been counting, honest…) and all of you have been a delight to interact with. If you are feeling lonely or want some company, just use this page to reach out to me or others – if we can’t go out, let’s bring the warmth of community to our homes instead. (Hell if you want I will even read you a bed-time story over the phone). If we all stand strong together, we will get through this. And just imagine how many novels will be written as a result – Love in the Time of COVID-19 has a best-selling ring to it, even if Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s family may have me up for plagiarism…
I truly hope that within a few months I will be back to focusing on my worrisome wardrobe and the fact I have too many clothes. But it’s fair to say I have lived a life spoilt with the privileges of plenty, with freedom a bedrock of my existence – maybe this wake up call will help me no longer take for granted things that are not inherent rights for everyone. Social distancing is a small price to pay to try and keep as many of us safe and well as possible. I am here for you, Bookaholics (as well as anyone else you want to share this with) and I know you are there for me too. Stay safe. You’ve got this.
A Guest blog by BookaholicBex