Books

How 2020 affected my reading habits

Back in January, in an attempt to read more, I set myself the challenge of reading 30 books in one calendar year. This works out as roughly 1 book every 12 days. I am happy to say (thanks largely to two national lockdowns) at the time of writing I am on book 27 of my literature odyssey.

Throughout the year, the genres of the 27 have jumped around rather erratically. I’ve flitted back and forth from fiction to non-fiction, been transported by a travel memoir, poured over a biography, shed a tear over a tragic narrative and been inspired by some smart thinking theories. So extensive is the turbulence of my titles, I found myself one dark week in March reading a medical book about vaginas (Gynae Geek, Dr Anita Mitra) – but then again, March was a very complicated month for everyone.

However, once mapped out in chronological order, I have noticed that the list of 27 reads less like a disorganised library and more like a diary of my 2020. Similar to how smells conjure the brain into specific memories, these books transport me to the backdrop I read them in.

For example at the beginning of the year I was delving into travel memoirs (Once While Travelling: the Lonely Planet Story, Tony Wheeler), where I read during dark evenings and pondered where I wanted to go when summer hit (the irony).

Then, as COVID decided to turn the world upside down, I made a switch in March to reading medical non-fiction. This ranged from public health policy to a startling account of how dementia is linked to the menopause (The XX Brain, Dr Lisa Mosconi). I can only imagine this was an attempt to uphold some sort of medical knowledge whilst my nursing degree was put on hold.

In the summer I hid in pure escapism. Novels like Amor Towles’s A Gentleman in Moscow transported me away from the emotional rollercoaster of 2020 and into different centuries and countries, all whilst sipping gins in a sun-soaked back garden.

And now in autumn/winter I have returned to non-fiction and have been reading hard hitting books on political and social issues (Factfulness, Han Rosling). I read them quickly, stealing minutes on public transport on my way to placement, hungry for knowledge on how to make things better in a disjointed time for politics.

And now I look to the last 3 books and what they will be. I have a yearning to read a classic to round off the year, perhaps fulfilling a goal I have to read Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in the week before Christmas for extra Dickensian impact.

Either way, as my challenge reaches its conclusion, I have realised that it has not only inspired me to read more, but also left me remembering more, as each book bullet points a specific time or feeling during a complex year. Hopefully the next 30 will be just as poignant.

15/12/2020

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Jess Marshall


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