Reading in a Pandemic: Escaping Reality


The last 6 months have been unpredictable, to say the least. For many people, the global stage on which they are used to existing has been shrunk down to the size of their own home.

It’s only natural, therefore, that so many people have sought out a way to get away from the four walls they’ve been restricted to.

Whilst we’ve been in lockdown, thousands have turned to reading as a form of entertainment. Given the extra time that has been gifted to many due to a lack of social events, disappearing commutes, and a disinclination to leave the house, the entertainment industry has been one of the lucky few to see an almost instant positive upturn in business – and it’s not just the streaming services! In the UK, a survey revealed that 41% of people have been reading more since the country went into lockdown, whilst 33% of Americans have been picking up more books since the outbreak started.

Reading has long been a form of escapism, readers everywhere using books to run away from the negativity in their lives. Fantasy, in particular, has a reputation for offering people an escape; the creation of new worlds, seeing our own problems represented by an imaginary race or solved through unearthly powers, provides people with the feeling that things can be okay.

Reading brings a comfort to people who are struggling, allowing them to identify with fictional characters. For a short while, they can champion somebody else, believe in someone else’s ability, or find comfort in a heroes flaws. They can solve a mystery, travel to faraway land, and experience historical events retold from new perspectives.

In a time when many are still afraid to go past their own front door, there can be no greater escape than to pick up a book and get lost in its pages.

Research indicates that, unsurprisingly, dystopian fiction has taken a nosedive in terms of popularity. Considering the state of the world, that’s no surprise. In a year where everything seems to be going wrong, you can hardly blame people for not wanting to read about the end of the world.

On the other hand, there’s been an increase in people picking up crime and thriller novels. You’ll have to work that one out on your own; I can’t figure out why the end of the world is a no-go, but the underworld of crime, murder, and thievery is more attractive than ever.

Of course, the other benefit of reading at a time like this, is that fiction reassures us that things are going to be okay. No matter how bad the world gets, in stories the good always prevails. Reading is a reminder than balance will be restored, even if the journey is painful. As Samwise Gamgee said, “There’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”