by Kayleigh White |
During lockdown, it seems that many are turning to a good old-fashioned past time: reading. In everyday life, reading is often cast aside for the more important things that we tend to focus on in our hectic way of living. However, with normality out of reach, reading provides escapism from our unprecedented and somewhat terrifying surroundings, and many are choosing to opt out of lockdown by spending this unplanned (and, for me, frankly unwanted) free time with a book in hand.
So why are people turning to reading exactly? As well as just a way to pass the time, studies have shown that thirty minutes of reading can lower blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress. Thirty minutes of reading can be easily incorporated into your routine if you’re working from home, but also requires minimal effort if you don’t feel like doing much apart from binge watching the latest Netflix series. As well as the physical advantages of reading, it can improve your mental well-being too — a study conducted by the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Amsterdam suggests that reading can help to develop empathy for others, improve your mood and create new opportunities for social interaction, such as book clubs. These can even be done virtually on platforms like Zoom, and are a useful way to keep your brain active. I believe that reading only has positive benefits; it gives you an element of escapism, whilst also improving your mental and physical well-being in a time when it is needed most.
Despite not being able to control our surroundings, we can control what we read and where we escape to. Here are my top five escapist reading recommendations during lockdown:
1. Normal People by Sally Rooney
There has been a lot of hype around Normal People recently and the TV show has been widely praised for its excellent portrayal of staying true to the book, which isn’t always the case for some films and TV shows. If you’ve seen the TV series already however, it is definitely still worth the read — I enjoyed escaping into Marianne and Connell’s world in Ireland, totally emotionally invested in their story, which didn’t compare to just watching the TV series.
2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling
I re-read this for the billionth time during lockdown and it had exactly the effect I wanted – I felt exactly as I did the first time I read it. Having sold 120 million copies and is considered one of the bestselling books of all time, Hogwarts is like home to many people worldwide, and the magic allows you to escape entirely. Despite being seen as a children’s book, don’t underestimate its power. It will take you back to your childhood years and nostalgia will come flooding in, and that is an escape in itself.
3. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
A Sunday Times bestseller, its illustrations are beautifully captivating and will transport you to another world. It’s beautiful story is kind at heart and will make you feel warm and fuzzy, enabling you to forget about all the strangeness outside right now. I would recommend this for some simple, lighthearted reading that is delicate and full of happiness.
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Irish Times praised this classic novel for giving readers an “enormous capacity to dream,” which I think we could all use right now. You find yourself submerged in the dazzling exhilarating and charming 1920s America, and become invested in the love between Gatsby and Daisy. Its mysterious elements keep you hooked, and the extravagant lifestyle will provide a distraction from the fact that you might be experiencing quite the opposite. If you like it as much as I do, you can also watch the film straight after — who doesn’t love Leonardo DiCaprio right?
5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Commended by The Sunday Times for being “lush, evocative and dreamlike,” the curiosity and magical touches sprinkled throughout the narrative make you feel like you’re in another world. Not everything makes sense, and that is much like the world we currently live in, but this is a totally different experience. I would recommend this is you want to try something new and exciting that will take your mind off things and allow your imagination to run free.
So, now the best thing to do is start reading! It is the perfect time to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read for months but haven’t got round to it just yet, or that book someone recommend to you that you like the look of, but work has kept you busy. Just start reading, and the benefits will come naturally. Although we cannot escape the pandemic, we can escape reality for a little while with books.