During the pandemic, many people are finding time they didn’t have before to hunker down with episodes of shows they’ve never seen or books they’ve never read. Of course, some among us are so plagued with anxiety and existential dread that they’ve discovered reading books to be completely impossible, but nevertheless, the consumption of literature has yet to go completely out of style. On Wednesday, the New York Public Library released a list of the e-books that have been checked out most frequently since social distancing began, since visiting the premises in person is currently impossible.
The list, which we’ve included below, reveals that inspiring memoirs and transportive fiction are very popular during times of collective stress, perhaps because people are looking for examples of how successful people overcame instances of adversity and strife in their own lives. Additionally, therapeutic books and children’s books are predictably being borrowed in large numbers as well. An interesting entry on the list is Sally Rooney’s celebrated literary novel Normal People, which tells the story of two alienated young people in Ireland who grow up together and fall in love. The book’s television adaptation just debuted on Hulu, which would explain the spike in interested readers.
- Becoming, by Michelle Obama
- Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover
- The Dutch House: A Novel, by Ann Patchett
- Deacon King Kong: A Novel, by James McBride
- The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb
- Normal People: A Novel, by Sally Rooney
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling
- The Water Dancer: A Novel, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
“For 125 years, the New York Public Library has brought New Yorkers together around reading and learning, offering books, classes, programs and materials to strengthen our communities,” Anthony Marx, the president of the New York Public Library, said in a statement. “I am proud that we continue to connect New Yorkers, even when we can’t actually be together. Reading provides so much: comfort, an escape, a distraction. I hope this relatively small pleasure helps our communities through a very challenging time.”
Goring forward, as social distancing continues, it would also be interesting to discover what kinds of poetry people are reading while isolated. When anxiety refuses to lift, tiny fragments of imagistic verse can be just as restorative as longer books.