3 Jul 2020

Summer reading is likely low on your to-do list amid the pandemic and civil unrest. But quieting anxiety is one reason you should find books to read.

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Reading isn't just a way to learn. It also has a calming effect. A University of Liverpool study of 4,000 adults showed readers were less stressed and depressed. And that makes them better ready to cope with challenges.

The study confirms what health professionals have long thought. Nurses during World War I turned to bibliotherapy to ease the stress of injured soldiers.

The Library of Congress and the American Library Association created the U.S. Library War Service. The program collected more than 700 million books and magazines for American troops to help them heal from the traumas of war. Nurses believed reading calmed the soldiers and improved their chances of emotional recovery.

Find Books To Read With Clubs

Reading is a solo activity. But joining others to talk about what you're reading and sharing your love of books helps you beat the doldrums. That's why virtual book clubs began popping up all over the world as social gatherings were prohibited to stem the spread of coronavirus.

One such club is the Restless Books virtual book club, led by Amherst College humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture professor Ilan Stavans. The club focuses on the classics. The original club, Classics Behind Bars, is part of a program that works with prison inmates in the Northeast.

"When the pandemic hit, we thought it would be a good idea to continue the classics but migrate it to Zoom ... (and) invite people to feel less isolated, and create a sense of community from their living rooms or bedrooms by focusing on a classic," he told Investor's Business Daily.

More than 100 participants from all over the world have read books like Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," Nella Larsen's "Passing," and Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe."

Pinpoint Books To Read, Including Classics

People always think about reading the classics, but never have time, Stavans says. So now that we have nothing but time, he says, people are enjoying the classics.

The benefits go beyond filling time. The language of classics "really requires you to slow down," Stavans said.

And classics, as books to read, appeal to folks from all walks of life. Virtual book club members include "high school students, teachers, plumbers, carpenters, librarians, translators, lawyers (and) people of all ages."

Stavans expects the virtual book club will continue even after social distancing is no longer required. The New York Public Library and other local libraries have committed to keeping it alive to help people find books to read, he says.

Join Book Clubs For Introverts

Guinevere de la Mare co-founded Silent Book Club in 2012, for those who, like her, love to read and talk about books, but don't always enjoy traditional book clubs.

The idea is simple: Meet at a public place like a cafe, bring a book you're reading and read for an hour or so in silence. And you can chat with members before or after reading time if you want. No need to read an assigned book by a certain date or clean your house to host book club members. Silent Book Club has more than 240 active chapters worldwide.

When the pandemic hit, many meetings took place on Zoom. Yes, people logged on and read in silence in front of their computer screens for 30 minutes or so and then chatted.

"Reading with others builds a sense of community and brings people together through a shared love of reading and books," de la Mare told IBD. "The social connections you make with people are important, certainly more so now with everyone sheltering in place and in isolation. A lot of people are coming to these virtual events to have a moment of virtual connection."

Locate Books To Read This Summer

Whether you're reading alone or with a group this summer, there are plenty of timely topics to peruse.

If you're interested in understanding American race relations, popular choices include: Angie Thomas' "The Hate U Give," Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow," Bryan Stevenson's "Just Mercy" and Jim Wallis' "America's Original Sin."

Eager to learn about the science of pandemics? Check out Molly Caldwell Crosby's "The American Plague," John M. Barry's "The Great Influenza," Alan M. Kraut's "Silent Travelers" and Laurie Garrett's "The Coming Plague."

Need to escape? Pick up "Wilderness Essays," by John Muir, "The Best American Travel Writing 2019," "The World: Life and Travel" by Jan Morris, and any of Bill Bryson's travel books.

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This content was originally published by Investors Business Daily. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Investors Business Daily

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