3 Technology Solutions To Covid-19 Cabin Fever

With coronavirus rampaging around the world, about the only thing that’s certain is that many of us are going to have a lot more time on our hands in the next few months. 

A pleasure we’ll have to forgo for a while
Credit: Unsplash.com

Social media is full of ideas about how to occupy yourself when museums, restaurants, cinemas are closed and you’re told to stay indoors or avoid contact with other people. You can enjoy a live safari with Cincinnati zoo, watch live streaming of operas from USA or take virtual tours of museums and art galleries around the world.

If you’re an avid reader, the obvious way to fill all this new leisure time, is simply to read even more. It sounds an idyllic way to spend the day doesn’t it? But what if, like me, you find even that loses its appeal after a while?

Lisa at ANZLitLovers has helpfully come up with ten suggestions that will keep you busy if you have to be in quarantine or are practising self isolation.

I’m going to share a few more suggestions with you. The added beauty is that they won’t cost you a penny.

Embrace audiobooks

I know many of you are already fans of audio books so feel free to skip this section. But if you’re someone who has never explored this world. now could be a good time to begin the adventure

.Audio books are perfect companions for chores like ironing and cleaning (judging by my friends’s plans, all our houses are going to be spotless in coming weeks). They can also go with you if you’re able to get outside for some socially isolated exercise.

Listening to Audiobooks
Creative Commons Licence via Pixabay.com

There are big service providers like Audible and Scribd but they all require you to pay a monthly subscription. However, there are free alternatives available.

One option is to check whether your local library service includes the ability to borrow audio books via a digital download to your computer or devices like smartphones/iPads.

Failing that you can try Open Culture. Most of these products are audio versions of the classics but you’ll also find a smattering of more contemporary works. Expect to see plenty by Austen, Brontes, Conan Doyle, Dickens and Arthur C Clarke but you’ll also find Neil Gaiman; Ian McEwan and Column McCann.

It’s also worth checking out Librivox, a not for profit organisation which has hundreds of books available. They’re all read by volunteers so you’ll find the quality does vary considerably. But since they’re all free, if you don’t like a particular narrator’s voice, you won’t be out of pocket if you abandon it and look for a different recording.

Discover Podcasts

Audio recordings of novels do tend to run several hours ( a standard length novel can last about 11 hours in recorded form). If you prefer something shorter, then podcasts may be more to your taste. It’s rare for a podcast to last more than an hour. Some may run for just 15 or 30 minutes.

I’ve been a massive fan of podcasts since I first heard about them in the early 2000s. I listen to them in the gym, my car and on flights.

Right now I have 15 different podcast streams on my iPod, covering a mix of book/reading discussions, true crime, drama and genealogy. The choice of programmes can be overwhelming – just take a look at the Apple Itunes podcast library for all the categories.

Here is just a small sample of all the podcasts related to “Books” Some are produced by people who also have blogs, others come from commercial media outlets such as The Guardian. The New Yorker.

You’ll also find podcasts via the websites of some of the big broadcasters, like the BBC A Good Read which is one of my favourites.

Go Back To School

A less well known feature is ITunes University where some of the leading education establishments have made material from their courses available. Don’t expect them to be highly polished productions – with some service providers, they have simply recorded the lecture so the audio quality will sometimes be a bit ropey (you won’t hear the question from the student for example). But what you will get are some highly interesting insights – I’ve listened in to some fascinating episodes on Shakespeare’s plays, children’s literature and the Romantic writers for example.

If you are afraid that your brain will turn to mush during the period of Covid-19 isolation, one solution would be to enrol for an online course. Just think how smug you’ll be come the summer (winter for you southern hemisphere folks).

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Course) have democratised education in recent years, making university level courses available to thousands of people around the world – and all free of charge. If you’ve never heard of MOOC, take a look at these Ted Talk videos to get an idea of what they can accomplish.

The range of subjects is staggering but since I suspect your main interest is in literature I’ve done some digging around and found these courses for you.

Walter Scott: The Man Behind the Monument

Delivered by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland via FutureLearn.com, this is course starts Monday, March 23. Over a four week period you’ll “discover the writer, collector and cultural icon who remains one of Scotland’s most enduring literary legends.”

Explore the English language through Shakespeare’s plays

Starting on April 6, this is a six week course via FutureLearn that looks at the life and works of William Shakespeare. Actors and experts around the world give insight about five of his plays and explain some of the universal themes he explored in his work.

Literature of the English Country House

Starting on May 4, this looks an interesting course which explores the literature of English country houses from the time of Thomas More to Oscar Wilde. I have a feeling that some book bloggers have taken previous presentations of this course so maybe can comment on their experience.

Open Learn

If you prefer to follow your own timetable the Open University “Open Learn” platform could be the answer. It offers a series of short modules taken from the syllabi of their distance learning courses. They’re all self -directed so you start whenever you want, and take as much time as you want. One module could be just 2 hours, others last 15 hours. Literature topics include Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd and Dickens’ Great Expectations. There are also three linked courses on the history of reading.

Havard edX

For something more challenging take a look at two courses offered by Havard through their edX platform.

Modern masterpieces of world literature started on March 18 but you might still be able to enrol. It covers a wide range of authors and texts from Goethe and Candide to Jorge Luis Borges and Lu Xun.

Also just got underway is a 12 week programme called The History of World Literature – – sounds perfect for those of you who love literature in translation.


I’m going to follow a mix of these ideas plus those highlighted by Lisa. I’ve already loaded up my Ipod with audiobooks and podcasts. And I’m thinking of enrolling for the English country house course. What are YOUR plans? Any strategies you are thinking of adopting to get you through this crisis?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on March 20, 2020, in Reading habits and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I’m a long-time podcast junkie, and I have at least a dozen that I’ve been hoarding to “binge” when the time was right – which is, funnily enough, right now! And I’m super-grateful to all of my favourites that are finding ways to continue pumping out episodes even with current restraints.

    • I’ve just started to discover the podcast original dramas. Listening to quite a dramatic one right now about a female truck driver who picks up an alarming new load….If I remember it’s called Drive. Also liked The Passenger List

  2. Great post! Lots of useful information. I am definitely going to look into taking some online classes if I can motivate myself. I am still trying to adjust to working at home. Also, this post made me actually count how many podcasts I follow, and I stopped counting after 50, so I think I am a podcast junkie.

  3. This is amazing! I have been working my way through Coursera courses for a while and I love to fill my days with new information. Stay safe!

  4. I’m seriously tempted by the Walter Scott course – thanks so much for these great ideas!

    • I’ve never read him beyond a few passages for a course on historical fiction. I should really give him a go considering he is meant to be the father of realism in England

  5. Thanks for all these links and ideas. I like the sound of the English Country House course and have joined the August session, as I already have the Peterloo one booked for May. Currently I doing the one on Hadrian’s Wall. My exercise class is closed down too so I’m using DVDs etc for keeping fit. And I might even tackle the garden – I’m a ‘fair weather’ gardener. So what with books, blogging and getting back to painting I’ll be too busy to go out anyway. It’s just a bit of a problem booking a home delivery spot at the moment.

    • That indeed should keep you occupied – its a good mix of active, creative and temporal too. I’m itching to get going in the garden. We had it all levelled and replaced the decking with patio last year but they didn’t do as much planing as I’d hoped. But it’s too early to put new plants in (always a chance of frost). Frustrating!

  6. Good suggestions, though I’m going to keep on working. Project Gutenberg has free audiobooks though they could well all be Librivox. My library, which is my main source of audiobooks, says it is staying open – but for how long? You guys all sound very upbeat, and good on you! I’ll try and knock up a post soon, but really, that feels a lot like playing the violin on the Titanic.

    • reactions to the virus crisis are very mixed. Some people are just taking it on the chin. Others are very scared. We’ve found that It’s essential to avoid watching too much tv news on the topic.

  7. Those MOOCs are a great idea! I did the Country House one a while ago, and I completed two entire courses about dementia through the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Centre. It probably doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but all of us will know and care for someone with dementia at some stage, and I found it invaluable when caring for my father in the last years of his life.
    Another suggestion that might interest people though it’s not strictly speaking bookish, is to learn a language. I have real life classes in both French and Latin, but I also do daily practice at Duolingo, and I’m about to brush up on my tourist Spanish because my neighbour’s nanny has suddenly turned into an au pair because she can’t get home…

    • There are loads of other topics that caught my attention when I was checking out the Mooc options. Another project I’m going to pursue is to learn how to use an image manipulation program….
      Yep language learning would be a good one. My husband is doing Italian at the moment but I think its time I dusted down my very creaky French

      • I’ve just signed up for one on The Book of Kells.
        Not that I’ve got cabin fever: I’ve never been so busy since I’ve been retired!

        • Only a few weeks ago I was struggling to find time in the calendar to met up with a friend. Now I have a completely blank calendar. As long as I can get out in the fresh air I’ll be fine. I have loads of genealogy projects to do to keep me occupied indoors.

  8. Lots of great suggestions – my first, and main, intention is to dent the TBR hugely!

  9. I live with someone who is obsessive about housework – I have to do my share. I gsrden, I blog and comment on other”s blogs and I try to keep up to date with my wip. Likec you, my voluntary activities hsve ceased for now

  10. These are all great suggestions! I love audiobooks and podcasts. Learning is great as well, but I’ve never tried an online course so far. Since – most likely – the gyms will close soon, I’ve just bought some gear on Amazon so I can do workouts in my living room 🙂

    • It certainly wasn’t long after you made this comment that the gyms were told to close. I started doing Nordic walking earlier this year so I go out every day practicing that… I also have a (fairly basic) cross trainer in the conservatory so time to dust that off I think….

  11. I’ve already enrolled for the English Country House course, Karen so perhaps we could compare notes?

  12. Excellent post, Karen. Lots to keep our minds active here.Thank you

  13. Having been retired for 13 years now, I’ve become used to ‘having time on my hands’. Believe me, I don’t need ideas about what to do with my ‘spare’ time! There still are not enough hours in the day!

    • Thats wonderful to hear Frank. I was in a similar position up until last week – but all my exercise classes have shut down and my volunteering with the National Trust has been put on hold. I’ll still be busy because I also have a lot of genealogy activities.
      What are you doing with your time?

  14. Thanks for those open learning links. I have oodles of prof development I could be doing but I think learning something for fun and because I have the time is a great idea.

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