Last year, I read a total of 55 books (my goal was 30). It was really fun to track what I’d read for the first time ever, so I decided to do the same for 2020. For the first two months, I was well on track to exceed my goal of 52 books (one a week), with at least 12 of them being nonfiction (one a month). Two weeks in Iceland meant a decent amount of reading, and I just had a long list of books I really wanted to get to.

And then the pandemic hit close to home here in Kirkland at the very end of February. From that point on, I was reading a ton of news and playing a lot of PokemonGo, because it didn’t require a lot of brain power. I (mostly) kept up with my blogging, at least on Wednesdays and Fridays, but my attention has been really scattered.

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I managed to finish the last of the Clan of the Cave Bear series, very, very slowly, but after that I had more or less ground to a halt. Eventually, I decided to give audiobooks a shot for the first time in a few years, and I found that I could listen to those much better than I could focus my eyes on written copies. Even so, most of them tended to be re-reads so that I could listen but it was okay if my focused drifted.

As time went on and the pandemic became more solidly “real life” versus the suspended animation feel of the first month or two, I was able to branch out and listen to new books that I hadn’t read before (including Vicki Robin’s absolutely wonderful Blessing The Hands That Feed Us). Written books, though, still were mostly out of reach. I slogged through them, but I didn’t get the joy I normally did; I kept trying to read simply because I felt that I should.

Falling Into Magic

My mother has been an author most of my life. Her first book came out when I was just eight years old. She’s a parenting author, and her dozen books have been translated into more than thirty five languages. Her most recent parenting book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns, was inspired by my kiddo and his photos and sleep charts feature in the book.

She is someone who inspires me on the path to financial independence, because she has a successful career and doesn’t need to work, but still does because she loves what she does and the impact she makes on families. That said, she has talked for years about writing a fiction novel, and this year, she did.

Falling Into Magic: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic was published on November 12th, but I read it as an early editor for her. It is a lovely fantasy novel based in a fictional island town that reminds me of many of the seaside areas in the Pacific Northwest. The fluffy cat on the cover is one of the stars of the novel, and I’m so excited to see her own love interest play out in the next book.

Falling Into Magic is a fantasy book that has been aptly described as Disney/Hallmark, though the witch is definitely of a different sort, and another one of my favorite characters. The characters are diverse, hilarious, and smart, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Better yet, I actually read the book in just a couple of days. It was exactly the right amount of fluff and lighthearted story that I needed in 2020.

Since reading the advanced copy a couple months ago, I’ve found my stride again when it comes to reading books – not just listening to them. I’m still listening to audiobooks when I’m out on a run or in my car, but otherwise, I find myself drawn back to reading the written word. After finishing Falling Into Magic, I’ve since finished another eight books (and a couple audiobooks). The common thread with all of the books I’ve read since then? They are all upbeat, light, enjoyable reads with a happy ending.

This year has had enough bad, dark, tough times. My reading these days needs to be a positive escape, a balm for the everyday. It took reading my mom’s book to have that sink in. I don’t have to read anything that isn’t working for me right now. In normal years, I mix in the lighter, fluffy reads with more “serious” stuff. This year, though, I am now leaning into the books that bring me joy – Falling Into Magic was one of those, and the numerous series I’ve read since then are as well.

I love reading, and I’ve found my way back. I may not be reading many of the more difficult, dense books on my reading list, but I am reading. And it feels so good.

Are you reading these days? What is your most recent favorite read?

28 thoughts on “Reading During the Pandemic

  1. 55 books is ASTONISHING to me – and then I remember that you don’t watch TV, which definitely takes up some of my media/entertainment time. But still, so impressive!

    I’ve had similar periods of interest and disinterest in reading this year. In April & May, I also wanted to escape the present, but for some reason that manifested in only reading books written before the 20th century. Of those, Tess of the D’Urbervilles was my favorite. Then I decided to leap back into sci-fi and fantasy, and the graphic novel Nimona and the novel Gideon the Ninth were my favorites of that genre. And in the latter months of the year, I finally found the patience & interest to read non-fiction too. I just finished An Indigenous People’s History of the US – highly recommend – and just picked up Braiding Sweetgrass, which I already think will be one of my favorite books this year. I also read Animal Vegetable Miracle on your suggestion and learned a lot from it!

    All in all, I just finished my 22nd book of the year this weekend, which is far, far more than I’ve read in any year since high school (I had to read a lot in college, but those were mostly scholarly articles, not books). I’ve been thrilled to regain my love of reading that was a central tenet of my childhood, and I have so many more on my list! Starting to use the library last year (thanks FIRE) really changed my life ☺️

    1. Also, wow to your mom being an author! I may need to borrow my dad’s kindle to check her new book out over the holidays 🙂

      1. Yep!! The book is also available in paperback, but it was written mainly as an ebook 🙂

    2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles has been on my list FOREVER- but I don’t think I’ll get to it this year. Did the Braiding Sweetgrass come from my recommendation too?? It’s a wonderful read (listening to it by the author on audiobook has been lovely).

      1. Two close friends recommended Braiding Sweetgrass to me months ago so it’s been in the back of my mind, but seeing you were listening to it gave me the final push to make it my next book!

  2. 2020 has certainly been an experience, but I feel like I’ve been able to read a lot more now that I’m not spending so much time commuting to work.

    Thanks for sharing your recommendation, I just added the Vicki Robin’s book to my read list since I just finished “Your Money Or Your Life” yesterday!

    I love that your mom was able to publish her first nonfiction book, that’s really exciting. Do you think this will be where she focuses in the future, or do you think she will go back to writing nonfiction?

    1. My brain just hasn’t been in a place for read for much of this year. It feels so good to get back in the groove.

      And I know at least the next book for her will be a continuation of the series 🙂

  3. Wow!!!!!! I wasn’t expecting THAT! 😊
    Thank you, daughter! How kind and supportive of you to feature me and my new book. I appreciate you and am honored to be mentioned on your fantastic blog.

  4. Your experience is super relatable—thank you for sharing. In 2019, I read 90 books. In 2020, I’ve read 36.

    It’s partly because I was a traveling consultant in the before times, and I would read a ton on planes and in hotels. Now there’s no more travel time. But the bigger problem is mental state. I haven’t had much focus or appetite for books.

    Weirdly, what broke my March/April reading drought was a binge of personal finance books in May. I think I was craving a sense of control.

    Now I’m reading more fiction, but it needs to feel escapist or uplifting, like you described. I’ve just downloaded your mom’s book 🙂

    1. Escapist or uplifting is definitely the genre for 2020. Do you find you miss the travel?

  5. Reading during the pandemic has been tedious for me. So I feel you hardcore on this! Are you keeping score of how many books you’ve read? Or are you just kind of chalking this one up to better luck next year?

    1. I am still writing them down! But for sure including audiobooks and the chapter books we read to the kiddo at night, both of which I didn’t track in 2019 😉

  6. I am a high school librarian so I usually read somewhere between 150-200 books a year. They are my job but also my joy. I was able to keep up with the number of books I read between on-line teaching and election stress, but I definitely chose lighter reads for the most part. I love fantasy and romance in particular. I have watched more TV since March, but escaping in to another world through a book kept me sane.

    1. Yeah, I don’t watch tv pretty much ever, so that hasn’t changed this year 🙂 But lighter reads are definitely a good plan this year.

  7. I’ve known for a while that Elizabeth Pantley was your mom, but I still find it so surreal. I read her books when my boys were babies—and they’re 12 and 15 now!

    How exciting that she’s finally published her first fiction book. Congrats on her accomplishment.

    Like you, I’ve been on the audiobook train this year. It’s just about the only way I can ‘read’ books these days.

    1. That’s so fun ❤️❤️❤️ So you read about me before you ever knew me, too 😜

  8. I am just like you. I have always been a prolific reader, but ever since the quarantine hit, I find myself quitting way more books than I ever have before. I have started to listen to more podcasts (Typology and What Should I read next? are my favorites. Enneagram 1 here!) Surprisingly, if I read aloud a book to my son, my “restless mind” condition stops. That has been one of the bright sides to this awful year. We have read so many classics that I somehow missed growing up. Our favorites have been My side of the Mountain, Ben and Me, Catherine called Birdy, Misty of Chincoteague, the whole Stink Moody and Judy Moody series three times!!!, and countless others. I look forward to enjoying books again, but I am thankful for these small blessings wherever I can find them:)

    1. Okay My Side of the Mountain needs to be one of our bedtime books soon! Right now we’re almost through Redwall.

      1. It was a really fun and informative read. We loved all of the foraging tips. I majored in Wildlife Science and took multiple botany classes and even I was continually finding things I didn’t know.

      2. Environmental science major and former park ranger here. Sounds like I might enjoy this book even more as an adult.

  9. I’ve been in quarantine mode since March and reading has been my escape. I usually read non-fiction but thinking to mix in some fun fiction to keep the spirits up.

    1. I checked out a bunch of books at the library back in March before they closed thinking this would be me, but that just hasn’t been the case. Finally starting to get through them now.

  10. My reading last year took a nose dive until recently too, with the exception of a 6 week binge in July (when we cannonball-run-style road tripped to my MIL’s house in NY – so maybe the change of venue was inspiring?). I did manage 26 in the end, but one was a Magic Treehouse and several were either “fluffier” or “darker” than I normally go. Favorites: The Glass Castle, The Testaments, Atomic Habits, and Into Thin Air. Hoping to stay on track this year and clear out my nightstand (which is on track to tip over one of these days when I open the drawer…)

    1. Haven’t read Atomic Habits but the rest on that list are great! Including Magic Treehouse 😉

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