When the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything starting in March 2020, once the shock and anxiety began to subside, I started thinking how I could spend the extra time I thought I’d be gaining from not having to do many routine things anymore, like commuting. I’ve always been an avid reader, so naturally I thought I was going to spend a lot more time reading for pleasure. Well, it didn’t exactly work out like that unfortunately. However, reading outside academia or your PhD is vital for so many reasons. It keeps you abreast of what’s going in the world, it prevents you from getting tunnel vision, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun.
A few weeks after the pandemic hit, I started reading on my tablet a lot more. In the past, I was one of those people who really enjoyed holding physical books when I was reading. There was always something about feeling the weight of the book in my hand, turning the pages, hearing them crinkle as you dragged your finger through them, that made me very happy. Like most people though, I was worried about interact with others in the first phase of the pandemic when it was rather unclear what was going on, so I decided to start digitally reading more and downloading books there. One of the advantages of that at least was that I could read late at night with the lights off!
I started off strong, but as the tenor of daily life changed, it grew more difficult to keep up my furious pace of reading. That said, I find sanity and peace in reading for fun. The ability to get lost in a book, especially one that has nothing to do with my dissertation research, is one of life’s sweet pleasures. It’s always an amazing feeling when you read and hours go by without you noticing.
I also think it’s important to read things completely different from your PhD. It helps with so many things, but one of the biggest advantages is that it helps you grow as a writer. To do that, fiction or narrative non-fiction is a huge help. I feel like I have learned so much from adapting those writing styles into my own and that it’s made me a better writer. Yes, you’re writing history or non-fiction, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dry. I think those things are too often conflated.
With the academic year ending, I’m hopefully going to be reading a lot more this summer. I’ve got an excellent book on my nightstand that needs finishing, and I’m looking forward to powering through it and onto my next literary adventure.