A few months ago, a family member told me that they bought a book on my recommendation. It was a book by a good friend of mine and while I might have mentioned that she wrote it and that it was well received and sold, I didn’t exactly recommend it. I couldn’t have. I hadn’t read it myself.
had started this book a few times. This involved reading the same first three pages over and over again at night before falling asleep, and eventually wondering if the problem was the book—or me?
I was the problem. I knew I was the problem as I haven’t been able to read a book since around March 12th, 2020.
Last month, on vacation, this famine finally ended. Maybe it was the absence from home, the routine and the hours of the day to read. All of those elements, plus an absolute determination that if this went on any longer I would lose the ability to lose myself in a book.
While book sales have been strong over the past two years, part of the brain fog phenomenon – unrelated to Covid-19 – has been a reduced ability to concentrate. A survey in the UK last year found that while people continue to read, they read much more slowly. It is fair to speculate that much was read and reread and not remembered what had been read and reread.
The constant fight-or-flight state in which we existed did not lend itself to the inclusion of a good novel.
Full throttle anxiety where your brain is struggling to solve something unsolvable like Covid does not shut down.
With hindsight, we can see how hectic those seemingly empty lockdown days were at the same time – homeschooling, doing your own work, making sure everyone stays sane, not to mention eating. Additionally, information overload may have trained the brain to receive and absorb bulletin-style information at the expense of devotion to something more substantial.
Still, I persisted in trying to read. I turned to Lee Child’s Reacher books, which had served me so well during the sleepless days and nights of having new babies. However, even Reacher was too much, and I was irritated by his ability to solve any problems anywhere, while in real life we were unsuccessfully fighting an invisible enemy.
The pile on the bedside table threatened to tip over. Sarah Baumes seven towersEdna O’Briens country girl trilogy and, ha, that of neuroscientist Sabina Brennan Defeat Brain Fog. I’ve worked through the first chapter, “Know the Enemy,” and the epilogue, in which Brennan expresses his concern about the “impact on brain function of measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus, including the lockdown, as well as ongoing measures to stress that.” survive the pandemic”. Her book provides a step-by-step guide to emerging from the fog. Someday I’ll get to it.
Alan Furst’s spy thriller soldiers of the night was half read after listening to all the John le Carre Smiley books on Audible. I could still listen to books because playing them on the phone in your pocket could keep you busy doing other stuff.
I’ll come back to Furst, I’ll come back to all of them because I think I’m back. Vacation was announced. The relaxing medicine of the sun, the hours of idleness difficult to indulge in at home, the sheer determined packing of two books that needed to be read because if it didn’t happen now, it never would.
There was Meg Masons suffering and happinessa tightly written, funny and sad tale of marriage and mental breakdown with notes by fleasack. I had started it at home, but that wasn’t a great accomplishment as it was a present for my birthday in February, after that I’d managed about a page a month.
The other book that was wrapped was Louise O’Neill’s idol, a sharp, snappy and fast-paced tale of how the modern obsession with inspirational and ambitious distortions can alter reality and turn us all into monsters. After reading them, I picked up a discarded thriller by Kathy Reichs written almost 20 years ago and marveled that her perfectly acceptable descriptions and categorizations of characters just wouldn’t work now.
Just reading it felt like reconnecting with an old friend. It was comfortable but also felt fresh and exciting, and had the added bonus of a personal feel-good factor. A bit of me hadn’t been withered and wasted, it had simply been stored away while pandemic living sapped all brain power.
I came home from vacation and bought Aingeala Flannery’s The pleasures, a scathing portrait of life and love in a small seaside town set in Tramore. Maintaining the holiday spirit in a way.
I won’t say I sat in bed reading my head for hours, but I got through more than the first three pages before I fell asleep. The good friend’s book, which I do not recommend, is next. I’m back.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/the-fog-has-lifted-and-im-back-on-the-books-41845282.html The fog has cleared and I’m back to the books