Like so many others during this stay-at-home period, I have spent an unusual amount of time watching television, especially news or current events programming. It helps me stay up to date on how my life, which feels completely out of my control, is likely to change or when it might ever return to some semblance of normalcy.
Experts aren’t just posing
Watching television news, I have noted that many of the experts being interviewed from where they are staying “healthy at home” choose to speak in front of shelves containing from dozens to hundreds of books.
What’s that about? How is it that books become the background of choice for these experts? Why are shelves of books important in the way that accomplished individuals present themselves to the public they’re addressing?
Perhaps these learned folks periodically stop and pause at their bookshelves to consider cover images or titles to reignite a memory, like we do when we walk down the hall and stop at a family photo from long ago. Maybe books represent past experiences or lessons learned. Maybe their book collections help them feel grounded in tangible ways.
Now’s the time
I’m betting that avid readers, like the experts who fill our digital screens, are likely to be much more comfortable staying in isolation during the current pandemic than those who have not yet made books and literacy an integral part of their lives. But it’s never too late to start and there’s never been a better time to invite books to occupy some of our time and expand our horizons.
Most of the books that readers select are likely to be an expression of the delights they take from various forms of fiction (e.g., fantasy, mystery, romance) or insights they gain for personal development and growth (e.g., how-to and self-help). For others, anything from the American Civil War to the royal dynasties of ancient China pull readers into another time and place. Some pursue adventure books for deepening understanding of the natural world, with explorations set atop mountains or below the oceans.
In the absence of any certainty about the likely duration of our current social distancing and with the very real threat of a second wave of the COVID-19 virus, now is the time to pick up a book that tickles our very own fancies or sparks our personal interest. While TV and hobbies and all of our other pastimes will inevitably grow stale, losing ourselves in one or more of the millions of books available is an absolutely perfect way to fill our days.
Go ahead. Get lost. Choose your own adventure!