How Reading Helped Me Survive 2020

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SEEK Bookshelf
  • by Hope Norman

As I'm starting to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, I've begun reflecting back onto how I mentally and emotionally survived the past year.

The first and most immediate way (although not the purpose of this post) was gardening. I transformed my backyard from an overgrown disaster to a place with two seating areas, and an organized flower bed. Fingers crossed the plants survived the winter!

But the main way I managed was through reading.

As I've written before, reading fiction generates empathy. But reading is also a way to escape. A way to put down all our screens and fully immerse ourselves in a world outside our reality. So even though my world in 2020 was pretty tiny, the 66 books (thanks goodreads!) I read helped me feel transported to far away times, places and experiences. Some of those times, places and experiences were: 

  • Dominicana, by Angie Cruz, took me to the world of an illegal immigrant in the United States who stays in an unhappy marriage for the sake of her family. 

  • American Royals, by Katherine McGee, showed me a world where George Washington became King instead of President and what a modern day monarchy would be like in the United States. 

  • The Price of Paradise, by Susana López Rubio, transported me to Cuba, pre-Castro, and to a forbidden love during an idealistic time. 

  • The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd, reimagined my childhood Sunday School with a story about Jesus's wife, Ana. 

  • Pretty Things, by Janelle Brown, was a thriller that told the story of when two alleged stranger's lives collide. 

  • Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi, looked at a woman who is trying to understand the most important relationships in her life through her work in a lab with mice. 

  • And perhaps the poorest choice of books (although to be fair, it was chosen at random), Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, about the United States post-population destroying pandemic. 

It appears I'm not alone in this belief that books made all the difference in the past year. A search for "How books saved us in 2020" on Google brings up 604 million results. Article after post highlights the specific books that helped individuals make it through - from classics, to YA to new favorites. 

In an article on BBC.com, an individual was quoted as saying "In the face of adversity, books have kept me going."

For 2021, reading will still be important to me. I read every night before I go to bed as a way to transition from the stressors of my real world. But I'd be lying if I said I hoped that maybe this year I was able to read just a little less and perhaps experience a bit more.   

What are you reading these days? I'm always looking for suggestions and recommendations! Send me an email at hope@seekcompany.com and/or add me on Goodreads