Fifteen years ago, a single book I picked up in the Boston Airport helped me leave an abusive job, seek help for a spiraling eating disorder and pursue my passion for writing. There is no doubt, when I look back at the last decade plus, (during which I got healthy, married, had my first child and became a published author), that a book saved my life. Throughout my life, I’ve looked to books for answers to everything, the way some might to spirituality or a therapist (I love both of these things too), so when the pandemic began to stretch out before us with all its uncertainty, fear and geographic and social isolation, I began to read ferociously.
My literary immersion made me curious about other women, other moms who were navigating the heaving waters of virtual/home school, running businesses out of their living rooms or kitchen tables, and trying to care for aging parents and host holidays via zoom. I knew many of us were turning to TV (Bridgerton anyone?) to give us must needed relief from reality, but a 2020 study also showed women bought and read more books than in any other year resulting in an amazing 750.9 million books sold.
Last month, I asked 1,500 women (most of them mothers) this question: “what book has helped you the most during the COVID-19 pandemic?” The answers flew in from across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. The resounding number one book, across all the women surveyed was Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. This book was already a favorite but Doyle’s message of authenticity, courage and devotion to loving the people with whom we share our lives was a lifeline for many women in this ultra-challenging year.
Some readers who usually preferred fiction found themselves craving self-help (Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity and Change), health (Breath), and books that offered support with societal challenges (White Fragility and How to Be an Antiracist). Others chose reading for escape, relishing hours spent in Proust’s Paris, Homer’s ancient Greece (The Odyssey was the top pick for classics), or the thrill of the 1970’s music world of Daisy Jones and the Six.
Many moms reported another challenge. They had trouble concentrating on a board game let alone a book for more than five minutes at a time. The books that were able to hold their attention were mysteries and thrillers. During the tense weeks leading up to the election, one mom discovered Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and found herself feeling lighter, laughing with her children and cooking lemon meringue pie.
While vaccines are being administered in greater quantities, we likely still have some time before we’re out traveling, cheering on our kid’s basketball games and eating with ALL our friends at our favorite restaurant. We could spend the time watching Netflix or we could take one or two more amazing adventures with a favorite author. Here are three ways to enrich the literary journey:
1.Get Smart: pick a challenging book (One Hundred Years of Solitude or Infinite Jest) and read it with the support of a class or reading group like those through Universities like Harvard through Edx.
2.Immersion Excursion: choose a book in a place where you long to travel and in addition to reading, listen to music, cook or order food and look at visual imagery (art, photographs, documentaries) of the region (Julia Child’s My Life In France is a favorite.)
3.Family Book Club: select a book and read/discuss in a multi-generational gathering on zoom (To Kill a Mockingbird and The New Kid were top pics amongst the families surveyed.)
Through books, worlds, friends, universes, amazing food, enlightenment await us. Because reading requires our brains to produce the visual images, spending time with books also helps our brain moderate some of the lethargy of quarantine. So, until that glorious day when we step off that plane onto a beach so sunny, we have to squint or pull our arms around the parents we’ve missed so dearly, let’s read.
About the Author:
Sara Connell is the founder of Thought Leader Academy where she helps women change lives by writing bestselling books and speaking. She’s been featured on Oprah, The View, FOX, TEDx, The New York Times, Parenting and Good Housekeeping.
Ready to write your own book? Check out Sara’s “How to Write a Bestseller in 12 Weeks Masterclass”