The Importance of Books in a Pandemic




RON CHARLES, book critic for the Washington Post, took a few minutes on this past CBS Sunday Morning program to remind us that, while it’s important to keep up on our current terrible global pandemic circumstances, we also need to maintain balance in life with a good book.

Even in ordinary times, a quiet read can be soul restorative. Coming home from a hard day’s work, having dinner, and then turning off all your screens to put your feet up in the silence of your room, your favorite foot-footed friend quietly sleeping beside you, and let an author take you out of yourself and away to another time and place.

Charles mentioned a few new books of this year, but why not delve into those LGBT novels you’ve been considering? They might be classic titles like Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance or Felice Picano’s Like People In History, which has just been re-released in a 25th anniversary edition. Or perhaps something from a young novelist like Christopher DiRaddo of Montreal, whose first book, The Geography of Pluto, came out to excellent reviews.

Did you ever read through that series you always intended? Ethan Mordden’s “Buddies” set, for example? Or that string of mysteries featuring a sexy gay detective? Or, on the nonfiction side, all those books published last year about Stonewall’s 50th anniversary?

Why not a romance? I read recently, in an article about loneliness and the difficulties of dating, that a good schmaltzy romance story can leave the reader with a feeling of hope; that all is not lost; that true love can be found; that, yes, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day.

Couldn’t we all use an injection of hope just about now?

Equally important, Ron Charles pointed out, is the recognition that so many book stores—along with other businesses—have had to close by public health order. They can use our help. Many would still be delighted to take your order by phone or on-line. Sales, of course, not only help the store itself, but the authors, too.

Here in Toronto, Glad Day Bookshop, the world’s oldest LGBT book store, is entering its third week shuttered. It has launched a public appeal for funds to keep it from never coming back. And, at the same time, it has mounted an appeal for funds to help local authors and artists keep body and soul together until income starts flowing again and rent, bills and food can be paid for.

No doubt Glad Day is far from being alone in this time of crisis. But how much worse the world would be in times of such great peril, such as the present, without an escape through art and literature?

Balance is what Charles called for. And he’s right. We cannot feed on news alone. We must nourish our well-being on art and beauty, as well.

Now, where’s my bookmark?


Bruce SkeaffBruce Skeaff is a former journalist and current professor of communications at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada.


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