Ah. It's not just me — it's you! Or many of you.
Nearly 100 of you took the time to respond to my recent column about how the combination of pandemic, lockdown, fraught politics and everything else rendered me nearly unable to read for several weeks over the winter. I worried that this was it; my career was over; time to retire. If a books editor can't read books, what's left?
But it turns out that many of you have been struggling with the same thing.
"I thought I was the only one," wrote Sunny Floum of Minneapolis. "Thanks for opening this hidden subject."
Lynn Mathis of Burnsville wrote, "Thank you for letting me know I'm not crazy. I can't read right now and haven't been able to since Christmas. It's scary. I have a stack waiting for me, but I walk instead. Maybe by spring I'll be able to read again."
While most of you didn't abandon books, you did change what you read. Jackie Maas of Plymouth turned to dream material: travel books and gardening books and "books with gorgeous photos of she-sheds and conservatories."
Some turned to old favorites for comfort. "The books I've loved most in the last year are familiar authors, old favorites, quick reads and tidy-plotted stories," said Anne Twiss of Glencoe, Minn.
Krista Finstad Hanson of St. Paul has spent lockdown reading from her own shelves. While she did request and receive some anti-racism books for Christmas, "My stacks of books spanning six bookshelves have been calling to me to read what I have and not want for anything more," she wrote.
And mysteries — mysteries have been a godsend. "Like others, I find myself reading lighter fiction and mysteries, books I used to eschew but now realize that entertainment has value, too," wrote Karen Storm of Minneapolis. "The biggest change I've made is reading journals for about an hour before bed. I have read all of May Sarton's, and I can affirm that 'Journal of a Solitude' is one of her best."
Sheri Kump of Apple Valley is battling her shorter attention span with podcasts and audiobooks. "I highly recommend you listen to the podcast 'No Stupid Questions,' episode 30 (Why Do We Seek Comfort in the Familiar?)," she wrote.
Laura Zlogar, a retired literature teacher in River Falls, Wis., has found her reading time and attention taken up almost exclusively with the news. And when she did pick up a book, "I could not focus on challenging reading," she wrote.
"I spent a good deal of time reading mysteries, primarily British, and watching police procedurals on Acorn and Netflix. I even found a fascination with those from Iceland, Sweden, Poland, France and elsewhere. Perhaps by immersing myself in different cultures and languages, in plots and characters where ambiguities are sorted by the end, it made our own political and medical crises survivable."
Barbara Ankrum of Vadnais Heights keeps a journal of the books she reads each year. "After March's entries, I wrote: 'Then COVID hit and I couldn't read for months,' " she said. "It was so unexpected, perplexing and bothersome to me. In late fall when I did pick up books again, they were what I call 'fluff' books — easy reads, enjoyable topics, somewhat predictable, endings all tied up nicely."
But things are improving. "The first three books I started in January I never finished," she said. "However, I do feel the routine of reading itself, whatever the topic that suits at the moment, is back and that is such a relief. I couldn't imagine never wanting to read again."
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune's senior editor for books. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.