Reading in Lockdown- Part 2

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin

by Gwendolyn Brooks


In all this willful world
of thud and thump and thunder
man’s relevance to books
continues to declare.

Books are meat and medicine
and flame and flight and flower,
steel, stitch, and cloud and clout,
and drumbeats in the air.

If you have never heard of or read Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings, now might be the time to discover her newsletter. In lockdown, we have the opportunity to read much more than we usually do. Why is reading important?

“Someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world,”wrote the poet Mary Ruefle. “A book is a heart that beats in the chest of another,” Rebecca Solnit asserted in her lyrical meditation on why we read and write. But whatever our poetic images and metaphors for the varied ways in which books transform us — “the axe for the frozen sea within us,” per Franz Kafka, or “proof that humans are capable of working magic,”per Carl Sagan — the one indisputable constant is that they do transform us, in ways which we may not always be able to measure but can always feel in the core of our being.

Maria Popova

I love to read. I probably read a book a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. It is a great distraction when the noise of the world is coming at me too fast and too furious. Most days, I prefer a good book to TV or Netflix. When I read a wonderful piece of literature like Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, my breath is taken away. Being a writer myself, I find myself admiring how each sentence is made up of everyday words placed in perfect order to bring a vision to mind and to feel like one is there. That is genius.

When I read a good mystery writer, Peter Robinson, Val McDermid (some might say she is more thriller), and now Tana French, I am transported to a world I hope I never visit but get a glimpse of. The best mystery writers write literature not just a fast paced, stay awake all night, who done it. And when the books are a series as with Peter Robinson or the great Donna Leon, whose Ispetattore Brunetti is beloved the world over, we become part of a family one only knows from reading. It is such a treat and we await the next chapter of the “family’s fortunes” as one waits for Christmas as a child.

This lockdown will end. The pandemic will pass eventually. Maybe some of us will have slowed down enough that we love it, don’t want to speed up again as before Covid-19 made it’s deathly visit on earth. Many of us will look to re-invent ourselves into what we’ve learned about the best of ourselves. If there is one constant in life it’s that things change–always. But reading, and learning from reading, and being inspired by reading is always available to us. So I encourage you to start now. Read an inspiring book during the day and an escapist book at night. The worlds you will travel will almost make up for the traveling we cannot do at the moment.

A bientôt,


Author: Sara Somers

I am retired from my first profession, am from Oakland, California, living in Paris, France since 2013. I love books, movies, and watching everyday life in Paris out my window. Please enjoy my musings as I grow into the author others say I am. I am always open to thoughts and ideas from others about this blog. I like to write about Paris, about France, about the US as seen from France. About France that the US may or may not know.

5 thoughts on “Reading in Lockdown- Part 2”

  1. My dear Sara,Thank you for your great writting. I am big reader to. Love books from the bottom of my heaet. When in relaps- I read a book in a day. Compulsive reader. So I have to look after myself and stop reading literature, specially at the beginning of my abstinence. My last book I was reading was : Chantal Delsol, LA HAINE DU MONDE. Great book. It is philozophical essay about our world we live in. She clarify our time we live in.And others authors you wrote abou them, yes I know them, different genre, all I love.Thank you so much and nice abstinent day, NMWLove to you,AlbinaPoslano iz naprave Galaxy

  2. I agree with you and the French, who are outraged that bookshops are not considered to be essential shops. If you enjoy a good thriller, a series you may not know about is written by Robert Galbraith, the nom de plume of JK Rowlings! The first book of four (?) is The Cuckoo’s Calling.
    Henrie xxx

    1. I think the BBC, if not them ITV, have made for TV movies of all the books. All episodes have the umbrella title “Strike”. They’ve been shown here in France. Quite good, actually! Thanks, Henrie, for bringing them up.

  3. Another inspiring blog. Reading has sustained me my entire life. Here are some of the books that kept me sane during the pandemic in 2020: Barack Obama’s The Promised Land (reminding me of a time not so long ago when I was really proud of my country), Saving Sara (!), Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat, The Silk Roads and The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, Hillary Mantel’s trilogy, Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk, Scott Turow’s The Last Trial, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Plague by Albert Camou, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb and Robert Galbraith Troubled Blood. Would love to hear other people’s recommendations.

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