How Can Reading Books Help Us During This Era?
One day, there will be books written about these days.
There will be historical fiction set amidst the backdrop of this pandemic. There will be biographies about the heroes.
There will be multidisciplinary tomes written about this virus. The books will examine: how did the virus affect our culture? How did it impact our economy? How did it change our perspective?
There will be books written about these times.
But while we’re in the thick of it, we need to read those books that have already been written.
Reading books can help in these key ways:
Biographies Reveal How to Rise Above Struggle
Consider the struggles of our forebears, as they fought and fled the ravages of political/physical destruction, famine, and widespread ignorance.
Some stories of our forebears are known to us—in a cursory way.
Maybe we read a couple of sentences about some of these individuals in a social studies textbook. Their names became the answers in a “match the correct answer” column on a pop quiz. These people might have once been abstractions to us.
Yet reading a great biography in our current era can help us to empathize with the plight of our ancestors… and it can help us to understand the struggles of those in our present day.
Even if you’re not a direct descendant of the individuals you chose to read about, you can learn deeply from their struggles—as a part of the human family.
Historical Fiction Helps Us to Understand Context
The social studies textbooks from your high school days likely did a woeful job in personifying the historical struggles of a group of people.
You surely read about the famine in Ireland, or the polio outbreak, and you might have a vague idea of when these events occurred. But do you truly have an understanding of the context in which these struggles were born, or how they resolved?
It’s ironic that reading historical fiction set in any era can ground us in the truth of an era. Yet sometimes it’s the only way to get “deep” into an era… as it allows us to take a glimpse into the headspace of a person who might have existed.
Non-Fiction Helps Us to be Analytical
It’s easy to feel stymied or stuck when our surroundings seem to be closing in on us.
Day by day, the “safe places” are closing off. As our physical surroundings become more confining, it can be hard to consider new ideas with the same level of zest.
Yet reading thoughtful non-fiction can help you to get “un-stuck” from our surroundings. You can chose from almost any category of non-fiction (barring the travel section, of course). 😉
Try out a cookbook that focuses on simple ingredients – work with what you have on hand, and be creative about it. Get a book that teaches you more about an aspect of science that you’ve always wanted to investigate. Learn more about the cosmos, or give yourself a tutorial in your natural surroundings.
You can free yourself from your physical zone of confinement by expanding your thoughts.
Reading Off-Topic Can Help Us to Escape
Of course, books can also serve an escapist function as well.
You can enter a surreal fantasy world and become a part of something that takes you “out of yourself.” You can read a rom-com and root for the misguided couple, or you can jump into a well-plotted mystery and sit on the edge of your seat.
When you read far and wide, you travel to the furthest expanses of your imagination.
Your brain was built to take you places, and a great book can set you free.