Pandemic Reading

I’ve read roughly a dozen books since March when COVID forced us all into figuring out how to live with new limitations. I’m a reader so I knew books would be among my best companions as I made my way through March, April, May, June — and even as I continue on. I read for my mind, soul and heart, for inspiration and reflection, for instruction and distraction. I read calm, serious, provocative, tantalizing books. I read books that frustrate me (although increasingly I’m setting those aside before finishing them). And I read books that charm me from start to finish.

When we first went into lockdown, I found it difficult to read anything but the Twitter feed on my phone. I’d mindlessly scroll through tweets thinking it was relaxing me when really it was just providing a distraction. Eventually I deleted the app and I’ve been reading more substantially every since.

Here’s a photo of some of the books I’ve read — I recommend them all. Following are a few more:

The Minister’s Wife, by Karen Stiller

This book is charming, funny, reflective and revealing. Page by page, Karen Stiller leads us through her life as the spouse of a minister. It’s a job in and of itself, even though it’s one often done behind the scenes until, sometimes painfully, a well-meaning (or not) parishioner, shines a blinding light on what ought, really, to be revealed by the minister’s wife herself, should she choose. Karen Stiller does choose to reveal. She tells funny, painful, ironic and poignantly true stories about herself in the context of parsonage and parish. Minister’s families cannot help but live their lives intertwined with a whole community of people – some easily loved and some not. I read this book over a weekend, curled up on my couch. It was like listening to a friend tell me about triumphs and tragedies of her particular and intriguing life. Some stories were purely entertaining, some were sad and others provided a window into humanity I’d never considered before.

Be Kind to Yourself, By Cindy Bunch

We all need to be a little kinder to ourselves in these odd, ambiguous and unsettling days when an unseen virus is wreaking so much havoc on our world, our relationships, our work. I’ve been thinking about how the things I’ve lost (some substantial, some minor) cause me grief, which shows up looking like weariness, sorrow, anger…all the normal symptoms. I just finished reading an advance copy of this book which launches everywhere July 28 but is available from InterVarsity Press now. Reading it has been like an act of kindness itself — a cool drink on a hot day, an invitation to lunch with an old friend, a wise question posed with just the right amount of empathy.

84, Charing Cross Road, by Helen Hanff

I listened to this short, suburb book, a fine way to become acquainted with it. Read by British voices it took me to London for a few hours. This is the true story of friendship born from post-World War 2 correspondence between a New York writer and the manager (and his colleagues and family) of an antiquarian book store. I stumbled across this gem by following the trail of a blog writer to his Facebook page. I don’t know the blogger, but he has great taste in books!

Everything I don’t Remember, by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Full disclosure, I didn’t really enjoy this book, which I also listened to on Audible. I chose the book because it intrigued me after I heard the author interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on CBC’s The Next Chapter. I often discover good books through this radio show. This book is a mystery, in an odd sort of way, which did keep me engaged. But it’s confusing because it’s written in many voices which all sort of morph into each other. I kept listening because I thought it would be good for my brain. And I do still think about the characters and the choices they made in life, which is, in my opinion, the mark of a well-written book. So there’s that. Try it. It might be your cup of tea.

What’s next on my reading list?

One of the gifts of kindness I’ve given myself over the past few months is to order books. I’ve done it twice, the last time scoring a bit of a win because the delivery took so long to arrive Amazon credited my account and said keep the books if they ever did show up. They did eventually arrive and I’m trying to wait until my vacation at the end of the month to read them. I’m pretty excited to spend time with both of these authors so we’ll see if that happens.

I’ve also been pulling old friends off my shelves in the past few months, and perhaps I’ll resort to that as a way of preserving the new ones til I can give them full vacation attention. Books, old and new, have been enlarging my world in this season of limited boundaries. This blog is my small tribute of gratitude to each of the writers who has gifted me with their stories, their perspective and their insights.