Contributor: Margaret Kilner
Have you read more or less during lockdown, or much the same as usual?
Well, it rather depends on what you define as “usual.” Before I retired, about a year prior to Lockdown, most of my reading was done on the train during my commute. I probably didn’t read much during that first summer of leisure, but when winter set in, I borrowed copious amounts of light fiction from my local library and was keen to make sure I always had a supply of new reading material. Of course, when Lockdown started, this source was no longer available and I eventually drifted on to doing jigsaws instead. At the beginning of the second lockdown (or was it the third?) I discovered library e-borrowing and became an avid reader again for a while. But then, somehow, I drifted away from that; perhaps because of a decision to start re-reading some of my own books as a way of avoiding the iPad before going to bed.
Has lockdown affected your choice of reading material?
I would say not. I tend to be a very ‘low-brow’ reader these days, preferring a light and easy-read story that will entertain me. This is not to say I haven’t read classics in the past: I am quite partial to Dickens and have worked my way through various books by Jane Austen and the like, but I never got on with Thomas Hardy and have since decided it is because his long descriptive passages leave me cold, as I can’t picture what he is describing. A couple of years ago, I discovered to my amazement that most people can see pictures in their mind. I can’t and perhaps this is why poetry leaves me cold too?
Have you been using reading in a particular way – for example for comfort, raising your spirits, escapism, distraction?
I don’t think this has changed. Reading for me is something to pick up in spare time for its entertainment value.
Have you been finding it harder to concentrate during lockdown?
I do find it harder to concentrate on one thing these days, but not sure this has anything to do with Lockdown. I think I would tend more to blame our digital society, social media and the tendency to flip between activities too easily in the constant search for something ‘better’ and ‘more entertaining.’ I think this is partly why I have made the effort to go back to reading real books last thing at night.
Have you started books and been unable to finish them?
It is very easy to put down an electronic book and forget you have it. A physical book sits by your chair, or by your bed and is a reminder to carry on reading. If an e-book doesn’t immediately grip (and some books can take 100 pages before you suddenly find yourself hooked on the story) then it is too easy not to return to it. So, not “unable” exactly, but more a kind of oversight. Probably there are only 2 or 3 physical books that I have ever given up on because I’ve disliked them.
Where do you get inspiration for titles?
I browse. When I was a very young girl, my mother told me to read the first page of a book before borrowing it from the library: the idea being that this would tell you if you were going to like it. A habit that I have carried through life and I finish most books, so who is to say she was wrong?
Where are you sourcing your books from?
My own bookshelves and the local library. I almost never buy fiction these days (just a few selected authors) and reserve most of my purchasing for non-fiction. These generally are more for reference and the pleasure of owning them: I don’t often sit down and read non-fiction from cover to cover.
Have you embarked on reading all the books you already own but have never read?
When I bought fiction in quantity, it always got read straight away and I don’t think I own any novels that I have never read. Many have been read more than once. For non-fiction, see above.
Have you been listening to audiobooks rather than reading? If so, does listening add something to your experience of the book that you wouldn’t get by reading it yourself?
I’m not really a fan of audio books. Maybe, again, this is something to do with not being able to picture things?
Have you been reading books about pandemics? eg The Plague by Albert Camus, Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Roses of Eyam by Don Taylor etc?
Can you recommend any books/audiobooks that you have enjoyed during lockdown?
The book that I most recently sat down and devoured was Julie Welch’s “Out on your feet,” sub-titled “The hallucinatory world of hundred mile walking.” I enjoy a good, long walk, but 20+ miles in one go is quite enough for me. The idea of 100 miles as a single effort was somehow morbidly fascinating to read, but not something I shall ever attempt!