World Book Day 2020: How to read a book in the digital age while we stay home and practice social distancing
When was the first time you held a book in your hand and called it your own, your prized possession? When the words began making sense and you didn’t just have to skim through the pages looking for pictures within the stories? The first-ever literary present I got was in my pre-teens - Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, followed by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. This habit soon turned into a longterm love affair that continues to date, and if interests and hobbies don’t vary then one that will never end.
For the present-day reader, there are umpteen options across genres and one might even find themselves spoilt for choice if they’re unable to pick one book or title at a time. The one who has enjoyed all the works by JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, Hobbit) is sure to have read the Harry Potter series and the Game Of Thrones series (hopefully before the movies or TV shows got made because an avid reader will always tilt towards literature before pop-culture, or at least attempt to).
The reading habit, however, is an extremely important one for all age groups. For senior readers, there’s always a book to fall back on despite the worse days. Reading at the end of the day is also said to reduce stress and help you sleep better. Sometimes there’s no replacement for the feel of a paperback in your hand or the smell of books (biblichor), although as long as one is reading, the media should hardly matter. Bibliotherapy, or book therapy, which isn’t a new concept per se, has found new ground and newer fans as people stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. Some reports have also suggested that reading poetry in the morning can alleviate stress and elevate mood.
In the time of a lot of content available to watch or engage with on social media, here are some of the things we can all do as we evolve as readers and as people:
Web-series/TV shows: There are 40+ OTT platforms in India across languages at present and the number continues to grow each year. A large number of audience who flocked to theatres every weekend decided to stay home and watch content online. With the pandemic, this has become even more relevant as we all stay home, distancing socially and looking for ways to keep ourselves busy outside of the work hours.
Kindle and other reading on the internet: No, this isn’t a “5 things to know or to-do” sort of a list. That list hardly ever amounts to anything for the mind except for some more noise in the middle of all the traffic already. The fan base for reading from a real book will probably never change/reduce, however; other media might just contribute to the wide range of ways to read.
Audiobooks and Podcasts: With several apps and sites going big on this concept, audiobooks are an interesting way to ‘read’ a book. One might liken it to a new-age version of a family elder reading out a bedtime story to you. Podcasts, too, are a great way to listen to some of your favourite topics being discussed by experts who can lend their voice, their experiences and their ideas for better living. The ones that interest me the most are all about life hacks, time management, creativity and more that I’ve found on Spotify and TED to name a few.
Social media: One can hope to make a difference if they put their minds to it – even if it’s a smaller group to spread the word with on social media. This could be a self-care page, something about personal growth or follow the pages that are sharing more than just snackable content. Watch videos with lessons, read well-researched articles and much more. Several websites offering online courses too are using the power of social media to get people interested in their study material. Some apps let you save the links you can’t immediately read but can surely revisit when you can make time. Beware of a (bad) hoarding habit though, where one only amasses the links (to be read sometime) like a bird saving up for winter but doesn’t quite get anywhere close to it. I have been saving up for a free window, or winter, since 2011 as far as I can jog my memory.
Paperbacks and hardbound books: Nothing can substitute the feel of a book in your hand, ever. But when you can’t buy more books, because of space constraints most of the time – which is one of the many woes of living in a small space in a big city – find ways of joining book clubs or a library in the vicinity. It’s easier to get the books issued and return when done. But as we stay home, it might be safe to say that book hoarders are probably having the last laugh but with options aplenty, no day can be an I-don’t-have-anything-to-read-today-day.