We had just started our annual History of Books and Reading seminar series on the theme of ‘Reading and Wellbeing’when the COVID-19 pandemic broke. In the space of two months, lives have been turned upside down and our most natural instincts suppressed. Pandemic social distancing rules have cut us off from participatory culture, sport and social life, and is causing a surging mental health crisis. Never has reading matter, specifically, having books at home, been of greater importance. Confined to our homes, many have turned to the printed books on our shelves and the eBooks on our digital devices for reassurance, reflection, or escape. Putting this seminar series together in the pre-Coronavirus world, we had never imagined that our research topic would be so close to home for so many people, including ourselves.
This blog series will reflect on the HOBAR seminars, with organisers and speakers considering the relevance of reading and wellbeing in the current pandemic.