Reading in a Time of Covid

Reading in a Time of Covid

Since the world went to the dogs earlier in the year, and many of us have been stuck largely in our homes, our lives have basically been turned upside down.

For me, work continued. I can work remotely. I have my work laptop, and a vaguely agreeable space in which to set it up. So I can do that. But I’ve not managed to learn a language, get noticeably fitter (the reverse possibly, despite plenty of cycling), or take up any new hobbies – in truth, I have too many hobbies already.

One of those hobbies is reading, and yet I’ve been terrible at it during lockdown. I found myself doing anything rather than picking up a book. Even when I watched multiple Hay Festival sessions online, and ordered a couple of books off the back of it, I still prevaricated. There was always something else on iPlayer or Netflix; a podcast to listen to; YouTube videos to watch; a toilet that needed cleaning. Anything.

In part, some of this is the case because I got a lot of my reading done during my commute. Back in the days when a commute was a thing, I would get the train to a London terminus and then cycle my Brompton the rest of the way.

The train ride would either be books + music (ideally lyric-free music), or a podcast. I’d also get some reading or podcast listening done at lunchtime – settling into a seat in a branch of Abokado with a chicken katsu curry and a book; or perhaps wandering around the streets of Fitzrovia listening to something in the never-ending stream of titles on PocketCasts.

At home, it’s different. There’s no real transition between personal time and work time. Sure – I shut the lid of my laptop at the appropriate hour, and I definitely try to get out of the flat at lunchtime, unless there’s an imminent delivery I don’t want to miss. I can move all the way from my desk to my sofa – both within two feet of each other in my living room. But it’s not the same. It’s too easy to whack on the TV and watch a video about someone building a cycling workshop in their garage on YouTube (I don’t have a garage).

It’s not even as though I’ve “watched down” my Sky box. Last time I looked it has 18% free space of a 1TB drive. I’ve got hours and hours of things I keep meaning to watch stored up on it. I’ve not even had that box for that long!

I knew that I just needed to force myself to get back into the reading kick. Fortunately, an interesting sounding title dropped into my Kindle courtesy of Netgalley, and that got me back. I devoured it in a few sittings, and then it was simply a question of what next? You’ll find out exactly what in the coming days when I write the books up. Not especially demanding – now is not the time to tackle Ulysses or War and Peace – at least not for me to tackle them. But just something to make me think and ease back into the swing of things.