Fifteen years ago, a single book I picked up at Boston Airport helped me quit an abusive job, seek help with a spiraling eating disorder, and pursue my passion for writing. If I look back on the past decade (getting well, getting married, having my first child, and becoming a published author) there is no doubt that a book saved my life. Throughout my life I have looked in books for answers to everything, like some to spirituality or a therapist (I love those two things too), and as the pandemic spread with all its uncertainty and fear of us and geographical and social isolation, I started reading wildly.
My literary immersion made me curious about other women, other mothers navigating the hectic waters of the virtual school / home school, running businesses out of their living rooms or kitchen tables, trying to care for aging parents and hosting vacations via zoom. I knew many of us turned to television (Bridgerton, anyone?) To break free from reality, but a 2020 study also showed that women bought and read more books than any other year, resulting in a staggering 750.9 million books sold.
Last month, I asked 1,500 women (most of them mothers) this question, “Which book has helped you the most during the COVID-19 pandemic?” The answers came from the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. The number one resounding book among all women surveyed was Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. This book was already a favorite, but Doyle’s message of authenticity, courage, and dedication to loving the people we share our lives with has been a lifeline for many women during this extremely challenging year.
Some readers, who usually preferred fiction, craved self-help (Keep Moving: Tips on Loss, Creativity, and Change), health (breath), and books to help with societal challenges (White Fragility and How to Be a Antiracist). Others chose to read to escape and enjoyed hours in Proust’s Paris, Homer’s ancient Greece (The Odyssey was the first choice for classics), or the thrill of the musical world of Daisy Jones and the Six in the 1970s.
Many mothers reported another challenge. They struggled to concentrate on a board game for more than five minutes, let alone a book. The books that caught their attention were mysteries and thrillers. In the tense weeks leading up to the election, a mother discovered Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series and felt lighter, laughing with her children, and making lemon meringue pie.
While vaccines are given in bulk, we probably still have some time before we travel, cheer our kids’ basketball games, and eat at our favorite restaurant with ALL of our friends. We could spend the time watching Netflix, or we could go on another amazing adventure or two with a favorite author. Here are three ways to enrich the literary journey:
1.Get Smart: Pick a challenging book (Hundred Years of Solitude or Infinite Joke) and read it with the help of a class or reading group such as that from universities like Harvard to Edx.
2. Immersion Excursion: Choose a book in a place where you enjoy traveling and, in addition to reading, listen to music, cook or order food and look at visual images (art, photographs, documentaries) of the region (Julia Child’s My Life) in France is a favorite.)
3.Family Book Club: Pick a book and read / discuss Zoom in an intergenerational gathering (To Kill a Mockingbird and The New Kid were top pics among the families surveyed.)
Enlightenment awaits us through books, worlds, friends, universes, amazing food. Since reading requires our brains to generate the visual images, spending time on books also helps our brains alleviate the lethargy of quarantine. Until that glorious day we step off the plane onto such a sunny beach, we have to pinch or pull with our arms the parents we missed so much.
About the author:
Sara Connell is the founder of Thought Leader Academy, where she helps women change their lives by writing and speaking bestsellers. She has appeared in Oprah, The View, FOX, TEDx, the New York Times, Parenting, and Good Housekeeping.
Are you ready to write your own book? Check out Sara’s How To Write A Best Seller In A 12 Week Master Class.