How 2020 helped me find solace in reading


Books have always been a huge part of my life, but they’re also something I think I’ve taken for granted.

Well. 2020. That was certainly something. 

It’s been a long and difficult year, with many of us dealing with the isolation and loneliness that has come hand-in-hand with the lockdowns and quarantines we’ve had to grow accustomed to, and I think all of us have had to adjust to fundamental changes in the way we live and go about our daily lives.

It’s been hard for everyone, personally and professionally, but we continue to do our best to make it through. 

In a year of such hardships, it seems silly — almost trivial — for me to be typing this, but as I’ve made my way through the year, for the first time in a while, I’ve realized how lucky I am to be able to turn to books.

This year has taught me to value reading even more than usual. It’s taught me that there’s always somewhere comforting to turn to when things get overwhelming.

I think it goes without saying, but reading has always played a huge part in my life. I’ve realized over the past few months, though, that it’s something I’ve always taken for granted. Having my e-reader on me, or a paperback in my bag has been a part of my daily life. Having a spare ten minutes in my car waiting to pick someone up, or being stuck in a line waiting for lunch, I’ve been able to open a book and read a few pages. 

All in all, I’ve never put much thought into it. 

But this year I’ve found myself diving further into reading, not so much to distract myself, but to give myself a reprieve from the outside world and how challenging it’s been.

This year has taught me to value reading even more than usual, and to value the time I spend reading. It’s taught me that there’s always somewhere safe, somewhere comforting, to turn to when things get overwhelming.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
“The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan, Book one of The Wheel of Time (Tor Books)

In October 2019, before we could have ever known what 2020 would bring, I started reading Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Little did I know that in doing so it would open up a new world to me. As we got into April and May of this year, just flicking through the pages of those books, getting a chapter or two in, felt like coming home. 

When I’m at work and things are hectic and it seems like it’s never going to end, I value the few breaks I get to sit in the canteen with a book in front of me. Whereas I used to slip into a fantasy book to entertain myself, I now slip into fantasy books like The Wheel of Time or Mistborn to escape the real world for a little while.

When the world outside looks bleak and lonely and like we’re in an inescapable cycle of bad news, I can find new hopes through science fiction such as Christopher Paolini’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.

I can cheer myself up with a rom-com, or learn and appreciate the strength of the human condition in contemporary triumphs like Nora Shalaway Carpenter’s The Edge of Anything.

Reading in 2020 has become a solace, one that I’ve always had but never quite realised how much I needed.

But the difficulties of the year didn’t only come from the pandemic. The racial tensions that arose earlier this summer brought difficulties for many that I, personally, could never even begin to imagine.

The Edge of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter
“The Edge of Anything” by Nora Shalaway Carpenter. (Running Press Kids)

To be open and honest; in June, I’d planned on writing about learning through reading in response to the unjust deaths of too many Black lives, and the protests which followed, but I quickly realized that I was nowhere near educated or informed enough to write on the subject. I’m still not.

But this is another way in which reading in 2020 has become more for me. I’ve taken to trying to learn more about the things I’m not informed enough on. Though it’s not their duty or responsibility to teach us, reading authors such as Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, and Jason Reynolds are vital launching points for us to listen and learn.

Reading has always opened avenues for us all to hear from and, critically, listen to under-represented voices. As a white man in his mid-20’s, I learned this summer that it was time for me to listen. To read and learn. I’ve tried and I’ll keep trying. 

No one knows what’s coming next. We can hope that 2021 will see life go back to normal — whatever that was. But I know that I can find my way into a book if things continue on the difficult path that they’ve been on. I know that I can continue to learn and understand the world more through reading.

I hope next year is better for everyone; and if it’s not, then I at least hope you can find your solace, the way that I found mine.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Stirling with a degree in English Studies. When he's not juggling reading four books at once, you'll probably find him exploring medieval castles around Scotland.

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