BY ELISA LEWIS
In 2020, isolation impacted many of us severely. Just seeing my mailman brought a sense of connection to the world outside my driveway and a smile to my face as I called “thank you” through the door.
I learned that my UPS driver had heart issues, but still didn’t want to wear a mask. I played hide and seek with my Amazon delivery people as they found new and annoying places to hide my boxes.
Bringing Back Anticipation
If ever a year reminded us of how much we could bring into our homes, last year was it, whether it was lightning-fast Prime delivery, digital streaming box office debuts, or live-streaming concerts in slippers and PJ’s. For all the comfort that all of those things could bring, by this point it feels a bit stale, like eating so many cookies one after another you can’t taste them anymore.
So this year I’m striving for the pleasure of delayed gratification, in the form of the hold list I maintain at my local library. Words cannot express the joy and glee I feel whenever a book I have patiently awaited for months is now mine to borrow, just like a whole generation who waited for each Harry Potter book to come out.
Breaking The Habit of Breaking News With A Good Book
After absorbing news all 2020, reading something other than the latest headline is balm for the soul.
Reading enriches our lives, enlarges our point of view, and encourages us to reach beyond ourselves with greater insight and empathy. Let’s face it, don’t you want to talk to your best friend about something other than politics and Covid? Get reading!
Part of being elegant is having a point of view and many interests. All the better with which to make conversation and connection. The ladies admired by LNL were all well-versed in many subjects, knowledgeable about the arts, and passionate patrons of many of the cultural institutions we love and enjoy.
Let your library help you learn more about history, or art, or introduce you to new music. Need more inspiration to sign up for a card? Two books about libraries might be a great place to start.
Susan Orlean’s The Library Book is a love letter to the Los Angeles Public Library. Tracing its founding and early development, and the mystery surrounding its destruction by arson in 1986, Orleans shows how meaningful the library is to its surrounding community, as residents rely on the library for education and social connection.
Set in New York, Fiona Davis’s The Lions of Fifth Avenue is a fictional mystery and family drama based around the New York Public Library.
Using historical facts, such as that the library building originally contained living quarters, Davis follows the tragedy of the family of an early director and his family. When the director’s wife finds her voice as an increasingly outspoken journalist in the 1910’s, the repercussions will be felt for generations in a moving story with many twists and turns.
Davis’s historical novels do a wonderful job exploring New York City’s rich history, and have a strong sense of time and place. You can almost hear the horse hooves clopping along the avenues drawing carriages.
Your Community Will Thank You
Libraries today are providing a valuable community service even while operations are modified for quarantine. You can often even apply for a library card, request and renew books, or even suggest library purchases all online. My own local library around the corner has its own app, which I save on my phone. Once a book becomes available, I can schedule a pickup and my book is left outside for contactless pickup.
Many libraries also use Libby, an app that allows library card holders to borrow e-books and read them either using Libby itself as a reader, or by sending a file to your Kindle device. I love watching my waitlist move as I get to the head of the line, and the time pressure of renewal often keeps my reading on track so books do not languish. More circulation helps your local library petition for greater state funding allocations, too. So by patronizing a free resource, you’re also doing good for your own community.
As an avid reader, I pick up recommendations everywhere. I use the app Goodreads, which also helps to track what I’ve read and what I want to read (I especially love the app’s annual reading challenge). I don’t “friend” people on Goodreads because I don’t need more generic notifications. I do, however, love to talk about books with friends who also love to read. During quarantine I purged books by mailing recommendations to friends.
I also tune in to Anne Bogel’s excellent podcast “What Should I Read Next”, which is like speed matchmaking for books. Anne’s podcast is an offshoot of her equally recommendable blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. And she’s a red lipstick woman like me, how could I not love her?
This year, may you explore your passions in the pages of your next great read, fill your soul with subjects that inspire you, and stretch your mind and heart by trying new things.
An effort I made last year in the wake of social turmoil was to diversify the authors and subjects I read. I enjoyed exploring history I had not learned in schools, and authors from lands I have not yet visited. Until we can travel freely again, a book is your personal time machine and first class airline ticket.