Reading habits change amidst pandemic


Augie Sophomore, Sinclair Lucero sharing the new hobbies she picked up during quarantine in the brew lounge on September 17th. Photo by Aakash Manandhar.

Abigail Larson

Photo Above: Sophomore, Sinclair Lucero sharing the new hobbies she picked up during quarantine in the brew lounge on September 17th. Photo by Aakash Manandhar.
The coronavirus has brought a multitude of changes into people’s lives from starting online classes to picking up new hobbies. One of these changes has appeared in people’s reading habits, which have been affected in a multitude of ways.
Maria Emerson, Augustana’s research and instruction librarian, said that during quarantine she read slightly more than she used to, though not as much as others reported doing during this time.
When she did read, Emerson found herself reaching most often for fiction books.
“If I want to be more in reality, that’s when I read the news, but I see reading as an escape form, so I want to explore these new worlds and new characters,” Emerson said. “There’s always two types of people, it seems like.
Those who love watching and reading non-fiction or more serious topics because the more knowledge you have, that can be comforting for a lot of people; and then there’s those who really just want to relax and not have to worry about anything for a while, and I’m definitely one of those people.”
The past summer Emerson read “Children of Virtue and Vengeance,” the second book in the Legacy of Orisha series by author Tomi Adeyemi. The West African-inspired series follows the main character, Zélie Adebola as she fights to bring back the magic of her homeland. Emerson also recommends the “Ms. Marvel” comic book series for those who are interested in reading but want a break from lengthy academic texts.
Junior Mariah Kaufmann said that the abundant free time of quarantine allowed her to read more often. Kaufmann noted that she mostly read from online sources, including news articles and testimonials to hear other people’s stories.
“It’s just with everything going on, it’s hard not to want to be informed,” Kaufmann said.
Also reading more was sophomore Jesslyn Cohen. Cohen found herself reaching for free reading books, specifically books from the Dublin Murder Squad series that she had come across through her Irish literature class.
Others don’t feel their reading habits have changed, though they still found themselves reading on the occasion.
Sophomore Alyssa Watson said she normally likes reading non-fiction books, but reread “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd over quarantine. This historical fiction book is a coming-of-age story about Lily Melissa Owens, a young girl who recently lost her mother.
Like Kaufmann, sophomore Sinclaire Lucero discussed wanting to keep up with the news now and throughout the pandemic, though she brought to light the challenges that are carried with it.
“I feel like I want to be educated, but a lot of the stuff that’s happening is too hard to process…I can’t believe I live in this world that this stuff is happening and I’m just sitting here reading about it, that’s all I’m doing,” Lucero said. “I would love to be completely informed on everything that’s going on, but I don’t know how much I can handle.”
Despite the amount of reading that was done over quarantine, all of those who were interviewed said that on any given night they were more likely to reach for a remote than a book.
“It’s much more passive than reading,” Cohen said when asked why she felt more drawn to watching TV than reading.
Lucero also discussed passiveness when asked why she would choose TV over reading in quarantine.
“Netflix is easier and you can always have it with you. And then sometimes I’d also just have it as background for studying…it’s just easier,” Lucero said.
Others said reading is often more difficult than watching a show and requires more focus. Additionally, they mentioned the ease of access to Netflix and other streaming services made it more appealing.
Emerson brought up the physical effect that quarantine had on her that led to her decision. “At the end of the day after my daughter was in bed, I was exhausted and didn’t really have the bandwidth to do much except watch some TV.”
Whether your reading habits changed significantly or hardly at all, or you just constantly feel pulled to the TV over a book, Emerson stated old habits of avid reading can return.
“I understand completely getting burnt out and not having a lot of energy to read, I’m the same way,” Emerson said. “Reading does happen in all forms, so even if this is a time in your life where you may not be able to sit down with an actual print book and read like you used to, there will be a time again at some point that you can do that.”