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March 20, 2020

Is the Pandemic Affecting Your Reading?

by Donna Huber

For me, today marks the end of the first full week working remotely. Last night my city passed a "shelter in place" ordinance. I'm home all day, the amount of reading should be high. Why then have I only finished 2 books this month?

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I'm kind of shocked by the lack of reading I've been doing since the COVID-19 crisis began in the U.S. a few weeks ago. Almost all of my job can be done from home, so yes, I've been keeping regular business hours. But I thought I would read more since I would have an extra hour every day by not having to drive to and from my workplace.

Is it the books I'm reading? Are they just not that interesting? 

I'm currently reading 3 books: 1 audio, 1 ebook, and 1 print.

Into the Darkness
My audiobook listening has been down since I moved into a shared office, but I was still listening to about 1 book every 10 days. And now that I'm home by myself I have no excuse not to play my audiobook. (I hate headphones and earbuds). I'm currently listening to the suspense novel Into the Darkness by Sibel Hodge. Even with bouncing between 3 POVs, it isn't too difficult to follow the story. I think the part I might be lost on is more due to the fact I haven't listened to the story in days and just don't remember some of the beginning details. It's not super exciting, but it is interesting. Why am I not rushing to listen to it each day?

The ebook is by one of my favorite authors. I started the book before the crisis was really seen as a crisis - it was out on the west coast and had not spread like wildfire through Europe. And when I started Unknown 9: Genesis by Layton Green the story drew me in. It is an ARC and it is a pdf of the print galley. A whole page that would be in the printed book is displayed on the screen making the font extremely small and it can't be resized. It is difficult to read and might be a reason why I'm not devouring the book like I have his other novels.

I started my paperback way back in December. A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing by Tim Weed is a collection of short stories. I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I loved a collection of short domestic thrillers so I put my name in the giveaway for this book. It has been slow going. Partly because I had a lot of ARCs to read in January and February and didn't have time to pick up this book. But this month, I only had a few ARCs so I thought I would finish it up pretty early on. I'm also struggling with getting through this book because I don't find the stories particularly interesting. If there was such a thing as men's fiction (like women's fiction but geared towards males) then this book would be in that genre. There's nothing wrong with that except I'm not the target audience.

If it isn't the stories, then why am I not reading more?

Unknow 9
What am I doing if I'm not reading with the extra time I have, or even during the normal time I would be reading if the world hadn't been turned upside down? I'm consuming way more news than I usually do.

I'm obsessed with CNN's live updating blog post. If my dog gets me up at night to go out I have to check the latest updates. I also check the AJC for news about my state - they don't update often so I'm not as obsessed with it. But the Johns Hopkins's map tracking coronavirus cases around the world is pretty captivating as well. Though my interest has slacked a bit as the numbers are updating as often.

On a normal workday, I turn on the local news while I'm getting ready. I might see 15 - 20 minutes. I mostly just want the weather report as the traffic reports don't apply to me (I don't live in the metro area, nor am I traveling into metro area) and only a few news stories are really pertinent to me (again because I live outside the metro area). But now that I'm working from home I leave the streaming newscast on until they go to replaying the earlier newscast, even though it is a lot of repeating the same news stories over and over with few new details. I'm also tuning in at noon to get updates.

In the late afternoon, I call my parents, which has been part of my normal routine forever. But we have talked for a bit longer than normal - because there's news to share or is it the fact I'm not talking to anyone else all day?

I'm also taking a 3-mile walk. With the weather getting nicer I had already started walking again, but not regularly. I realized after Monday that I didn't get up and move around as much I would if I were at the office. So I'm really trying to get that walk in every day.

At 5:00 pm until 6:30 pm, PlutoTV plays The Dick Van Dyke Show. I love old television. I watched reruns of older shows on Saturday and Sunday afternoons growing up. I wanted cable just so I could have TVLand (I've never had cable except for the 4 years I lived in the dorm at college). So I'm loving this classic television show. I laugh out loud at least once during every episode. Laughter is good right now.

I can already feel that I'm reaching my saturation level with the news programming so I'm hoping to get back to reading in earnest soon. But until I really feel the urge to dive into a book, I'm taking steps to get me back to reading.

Steps toward reading more

A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing
One of the steps I started Wednesday was to turn the newscast off by 9 am or when I realize they are just repeating what they said earlier. When I turn off the news, I'm starting my audiobook. I listened to several hours the last two days and I should finish Into the Darkness today.

I'm still taking my walk because fresh air and exercise are good the mind and body. Laughter is also good for the mind, so I'll continue to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show unless they get to repeating the same episodes so often they become boring.

I'm making myself read for an hour starting at 7 pm. This was my regular reading time before all the craziness began so I'm hoping if I can regain some normalcy in my life that my focus on reading will return.

I really think my lack of reading is because of mental fatigue. Even though I'm not extremely worried (no panic buying of toilet paper or hand sanitizer for me), and I'm loving getting to work from home, the uncertainty we are living with is definitely anxiety-inducing. I think it is mentally exhausting. So I'm giving myself a little grace this month and not caring that I'm 4 books behind on my reading challenge.

How is your reading life? Are you reading more now that the world is shutting down and we are all being told to stay home? Or are you like me and glued to the news? Or perhaps you are one of the very essential workers who are on the frontlines in the fight against this pandemic and are busier than ever. I would love to hear what is going on in your life right now.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. I'm feeling much the same as you. I work from home, so my normal routine hasn't changed with the exception that my kids aren't in school. But, I'm struggling to focus on work. I'm not even reading as much. I keep logging in to Facebook to check in with my friends and family. I haven't been panicking, just keenly aware. (I already had toilet paper, so no need to rush to buy more!) I think you've explained it well. Mental fatigue. The uncertainty of what's going to happen next is mentally exhausting.

  2. Yes, 100%. I'm working from home, but I've had to do a lot of overtime to keep up with member requests. Of course, everything that comes my way needs to be done ASAP and there are a bunch of steps for just one request. Luckily my member and team have been so awesome and patient. I'm mostly anxious for my members and how this will affect their small businesses as I hear all of their concerns directly from them. I've been having chest pains for two weeks when things started getting scary in our area. I'm definitely falling into mental fatigue. It's been hard for me to focus or sleep... It's wonderful seeing positive things during this situation though, and I try to only seek out those stories. Like people rushing to get gift certificates from local small businesses to help support them without actually going in. <3

  3. Yes, yes, YES to all of this! It seems like I should have much more time for reading, but I can't seem to focus on anything besides checking the pandemic numbers and reading the news. It's been horrible!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction