How a Pandemic Changed My Reading Habits

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As probably so many of us have, I’ve been doing my best during the pandemic to take care of my mental health. In fact, I’ve been trying really hard to do things that will perk me up and make me feel good. Those things can change from day to day. Heck, they can change from hour to hour.

Does anyone even remember what an hour feels like anymore, never mind a day?

What day is it anyway? I’ve completely lost track.

Like so many others, my employment status was affected by the pandemic. I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, and one can only organize the book shelves so much. (Okay. I can actually spend a lot of time organizing book shelves. I bet you can too. But that’s beside the point.)

I figured this new downtime would give me a chance to catch up on my reading. Chances are, if you’re reading this, your “to-be-read” list looks a bit like mine. In other words, it’s probably endless. It stretches into the abyss, like a lonely highway that disappears over the horizon. Like me, you probably despair that you’ll never reach the end of it. Let’s face facts, we never will, not with shiny new books distracting us at every turn.

I’ve heard people say that it’s been difficult to read over the past few months, and I can certainly understand why. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so stressed. So, I figured it might be the same way with me, that I just wouldn’t have the heart to pick up a book, never mind remembering it the next day. Somehow, though, I did. I started reading one book at the beginning of my furlough, and before I knew it, I’d finished it. Feeling a sliver of optimism, I tried another and completed that one as well. Others followed. To my amazement, I managed to polish off more books than I had in a while.

However, I did notice some changes in my reading habits. First of all, my reading became much more of an immersive experience.

Pre-COVID-19, or what I like to call the “Before Times,” I did a fair bit of skimming. I’ve always been a quick reader. It’s never dampened my enjoyment, and I’ve always gotten a rush out of getting to the end of a good book. Lately, however, I’ve been a much slower reader. For the first time in my life, I’ve been highlighting sentences and key passages on my tablet. I’ve been savoring my reading a lot longer, lingering in certain book worlds. I’ve even reread some chapters, something I’ve never done before.

There’s also been a change in the type of stories I want to read. Being a romance author, romance has always been the genre I read most. However, it’s never been unusual for me to pick up other genres. I regularly read thrillers, a bit of mystery and some horror. Lately, though? It’s all romance, all the time. More than ever, I’m looking for an escape with my reads, but it has to be an escape that offers me hope and a “happily ever after.” There are certain subjects I just can’t read about right now. Normally, I wouldn’t have an issue reading about zombies, evil intentions, death or betrayal on a grand scale. Not now. At present, as I’m lingering in those book worlds I mentioned, I need them to be pleasant worlds. Of course, conflict should still be a factor in the story. I love conflict, but I’m looking for a quieter sort of tension these days. I can’t read a book that leaves me feeling sad, at least, not right now. Unhappy endings work too viciously on my system. They devastate me, and I can’t deal with that when the news devastates me on a regular basis.

I know some might accuse me of going over to the “fluffy” side in reading romance exclusively. So be it. I don’t like referring to stories as fluffy because it diminishes their worth. And if I’ve learned anything in the past few months, it is that the worth of a good romance is inestimable to its readers. Romances restore my hope. Romances have put me back together when current events have torn me apart. Romances remind me of the good in people. Romances keep me on an even keel. And, most important of all in my opinion, romances help me look forward. These days, any activity that can accomplish that is most welcome.

In my upcoming romance, An Irresistible Force, Handymen 2, I discuss the idea of having a “safe place.” Romance novels are my safe place. I hope they’re a safe place for you, as well.

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