Reading in the age of a coronavirus pandemic has been rich with diversity and surprises. The journey has lead me to a variety of books that were comforting or captivating, insightful or suspenseful, eye-opening and heart-stirring. I have found so many books that I might not have discovered before the world was told to shelter in place. And I want to share some of my reading experiences with you.

 

POETRY: I LOVE TO READ IT OFTEN

At the onset of our confusing, unsettling, forced isolation, I sought out books that were calming, even inspiring. First among those were poetry. I’ve always loved poetry and read it often. I try to write poetry, humbly, and with trepidation. Yet reading it sets my mind free. My sisters and I (we spent the summer isolating together at my mountain house) read a poem aloud each morning outdoor among the trees to set the tone for our day. And it did. My favorites during those mornings of five dogs sitting on our laps and chasing each other, were Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs.

I always love to read the poetry of my dear friends and the poet laureate of South Carolina, Marjory Wentworth. She is brilliant.

 

AUDIOBOOKS: I LOVE TO LISTEN

I also became a devoted fan of audiobooks, something I’ve mentioned on Friends and Fiction, the weekly web show and podcast I co-host with my friends and bestselling authors Patti Callahan Henry, Mary Kay Andrews, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Kristin Harmel.

During those early days of COVID-19, my mind was easily distracted. I found reading novels oddly difficult. But listening… It was a surprise to me how enchanted I was with this medium. I knew it well. After all, I’ve read my own audiobooks for over a decade. Yet I relegated audiobooks to car trips. Not anymore.

 

MY AUDIOBOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Once again, my sisters and I sat together at night, in front of a fire when chilly, and listened, each lost in our separate visualizations of the unfolding story. My recommendations are Maeve Binchy’s A Week in Winter, Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls, and my favorite, William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land.

Caught up in a story, I listened while I hiked the mountains, did laundry or the dishes, and sometimes, lying in bed before sleep.

 

BOOKS: I’M BACK IN LOVE WITH THE PRINTED PAGE

Summer is over now and as we move into fall, I’ve fallen in love again with the printed page. My second surprise came from reading the widely varying and stimulating books of the authors we’ve enjoyed on Friends and Fiction.

Like the best of book clubs, we select authors and books that cover a wide range of interests and a diversity of subjects and genres. Reading afield from my usual repertoire, I’ve delighted in the power of books I might not have picked up on my own.

I was stunned by the power of Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man, got lost in the history of Fiona Davis’s The Lions of Fifth Avenue, and thrilled to the nail-biting mysteries of Karin Slaughter and Kathy Reichs. And I can’t wait to read the latest holiday books by Christina Lauren and Susan Mallery.

I’ve truly enjoyed every one of the books we’ve shared each week. And more, I am grateful to be a part of the Friends and Fiction group that allow us to meet and chat with the authors of these wonderful books. To hear them share their ideas, their writing processes and writing tips (thank you), and graciously answer all of our questions. Wednesday nights are my favorite night of the week!

Side Note: You can watch all of our previous episodes on our website here. If you don’t have time, no problem! Simply pop in some earbuds and listen to our podcast here while you’re on the go!

And mark your calendar to join us on Wednesdays at 7PM ET on Facebook Live for our happy hour chats. Simply join our group page here to connect with us and nearly 20,000 other booklovers!

 

THE FUTURE OF READING: READ ON!

Reading in the age of coronavirus continues months later, and we have entered a “new normal” of determination, perseverance, and calm. Throughout it all, books have been there for me. As have the booksellers who have weathered this storm with us. As have my fabulous friends of Friends and Fiction. As have you, dear readers. Read on!