Category Archives: Reading habits

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?

6 of My Favourite Reading Spaces

Hilary Mantel

Are you a lover of the sun-drenched lounger or do you prefer a chilled-out garden swing?

Do you hanker for a window seat or would you sooner have a fireside armchair?

Maybe your idea of reading heaven lies between the bed sheets?

Hilary Mantel speaks for many readers who count down the minutes until we can climb into bed and pick up the latest book on our bedside table.

My day is not complete unless I can end it with time to indulge in my favourite pastime. Reading in bed is a way to escape the real world, a chance to separate from the humdrum routines of life.

If I had a particularly rubbish day at work, this became the time I could push it aside; delighting in the knowledge there was absolutely nothing else I had to except snuggle down and read.

The number 1 favourite place to read

Age makes no difference it seems when it comes to listing bed as a favourite place to read.

In the summer of 2019, the National Literacy Trust in the UK asked children for their favourite spots to read. Beds came top of the list. Other top contenders included sofas, libraries, buses, trains and planes.

A few (imaginative? foolhardy?) children said their favourite reading escape took place on a trampoline. I’ll take their word for that; I know if I gave it a go it would turn out a disaster.

Readers are a resourceful bunch of people. Railway stations; parks; cafes; dental surgeries. We’ve mastered the art of reading anywhere and everywhere. No matter where we are, you can be sure we’ll have found a corner where we can open a book and zone out from what’s around us.

But given the choice, there are some reading spaces we prefer above all others. They’re our go to spots. The places that are ‘special’. And they’re different for each of us.

Garden Reading Paradise

Hilary Mantel clearly enjoys reading in bed but her favourite place to read is at home in Devon with the sound of the sea in the background.

My home isn’t close enough to the sea to hear the waves but I do cherish the summer when I get to spend reading in the garden.

My background soundtrack comes from the birds that use our pond as their personal bathing pool. They gather in a line on top of the fence waiting for the signal that the coast is clear. Then the entire gang swoop down into the pond for a good splash until the next signal that it’s time to return to the fence. It’s quite a pantomime performance.

We’ve just completed an entire garden make-over, including replacing the pond (it was leaking) so I hope these visitors will appreciate the new premium bathing facilities. Until the summer returns however the garden reading space is out of bounds.

Favourite reading spaces
Under construction: new reading space takes shape

Reading Plus View= Bliss

Holidays and reading go hand in hand for me. But you won’t find me book in hand on a sun lounger on a beach. I’m more likely to be sat on a bench in a park or in the garden of the hotel or rental apartment.

There’s something ultra special about looking up from a book to view an ancient monument or the cupolas of a mediaeval town. I’m equally happy casting my eye over lavender coloured louvre shutters or terracotta tiles.

Of all the many places I’ve travelled, here are three that have a special place in my affection. I’d love to return one day.

Favourite reading space
Villefranche, Cote D’Azur, France

Ok so I didn’t have a book with me when this photo was taken but I was engaged in literary endeavours; revising for a university module on the nineteenth century novel. The view over the bay towards Cap Ferrat made the revision bearable.

Kagga Kamma, South Africa

Definitely the strangest place I’ve ever stayed: a room fashioned from a cave in South Africa. If you don’t believe me, here’s the bedroom which came complete with large spider on the ceiling directly above the bed.

Favourite reading space

From the little terrace there was an uninterrupted view across the wilderness towards Namibia. Empty except for a few scorpions, ostriches, antelopes, zebras and leopards.

Favourite reading space
Miyazu Gardens, Nelson, New Zealand

Amid the carefully arranged rocks and foliage of Miyazu Gardens on the edge of the town of Nelson in New Zealand, I found the most perfect reading haven. It’s a small space but the designers created a maze of little paths taking me over bridges, through pergolas to this wonderful reflecting pool. A few hours in the shade here was bliss.

Where Is YOUR Favourite Reading Space?

I’ve told you about the places I love to read. Now it’s your turn.

Do you, like Mantel, look forward to bedtime so you can read? Where do you normally do your reading? And where is your favourite reading space of all time?

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