Literary therapy is a pursuit taken up by many new bookworms during 2020

Coronavirus swept the globe at an alarming rate accompanied by an unprecedented lockdown. The world ground to a halt with its population cast indoors. For many, watching the news was unbearable, long held anxieties became tangible and there were numerous more hours in the day to be filled.

Ofcom’s Media Nation’s reported an estimated 12 million adults gained access to a new subscription video-on-demand (Netflix/Disney+) during lockdown, with around 3 million accessing these services for the first time. Though, it was not only streaming services that experienced heightened activity. For many, solace arrived in the form of a book. According to the BBC, Sales of fiction rose by a third and popular bookstore Waterstones increased its online sales by 400% week on week. So, what sparked the public to return to this former cherished hobby?

News headlines broke daily detailing the devastating impact of Coronavirus alongside the Government’s insistent instruction to remain indoors. As the public watched the world modify to it’s new germ-phobic state, hysteria ensued and many formed new coping mechanisms to tame their heightened stress levels. The art of reading boasts many different usages; for some it is to fill an existent gap in their knowledge and for others it is purely pleasure.

However, for many, reading during the pandemic became a necessary distraction affording its audience a cherished escape from the escalating crises consuming their everyday. The Neilson Book Company’s research confirms that the nation as a whole has almost doubled the amount of time it spends reading books with 35% of readers utilising books as an escape from the crisis.  

Interestingly, readers steered cleared of the usual non-fiction selections and gravitated towards the crime and popular fiction genres. Titles likes Delia Owens novel ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and Celeste Ng’s ‘Little Fire’s Everywhere’ understandably dominated the publishing charts; as the fictitious novels offer a pandemic readership an escape to two remote universes.


By Natalie O’Callaghan: Literature Columnist

Though perhaps intended an exercise in escapism or a pursuit of pleasure, many readers reported that their book binge had a positive impact on their Mental-Health. Indeed, the delve into fiction enabled the reader to transcend their four walls and transform into the book’s characters. For many the experience of reading became cathartic in nature as once the book was completed, they feel renewed and motivated.

Biblotherapists regularly emphasise the benefits of reading for therapeutic reasons, writing for the New Yorker, Ceridwen Dovey explains that “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.” Thus it is indeed scientifically possible to read yourself happy.

Sales of fiction rose by a third and popular bookstore Waterstones increased its online sales by 400% week on week.

Undoubtedly, Lockdown came with its challenges, however the sales of books speak for themselves with the virus leading the charge, we took refuge and began to rediscover our identity through our old love of literature. It remains that irrespective of intention, Reading is fundamentally good for one’s mental wellbeing.

A book is a place of learning, a place of empathy and a place for it’s owner to truly escape. Perhaps a return to your bookshelf is in store this Autumn. Why don’t you pick up that shiny book in the store window or dust off an old favourite?  By doing so you make a conscious investment in your happiness. And ask yourself when you close the book and turn off the light – do you feel better? Recharged?  If so, get yourself cosy and ensure you finish that book.

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