Types of readers you meet during a quarantine

Angela Haupt

THE WASHINGTON POST – When this is all over, we’ll bust out the doors and enjoy in-person book clubs again. We’ll meet at the library or bookstore. We’ll cherish easy access to a wide and diverse selection of books.

For now, the best we can do is flee the scene – via escapist fiction, prescient sci-fi or tantalising romance. Of course, any type of reading is a luxury during such unprecedented upheaval. For those who have the time, attention span and emotional capacity, it is a wonderful distraction. But different people need different books in this moment.

Consider, the 10 types of readers you meet in quarantine:

THE WORKING PARENTS WHO ARE SUDDENLY ALSO STAY-AT-HOME PARENTS AND LUCKY TO GET THROUGH A PAGE OF THE NEW YORKER BEFORE PASSING OUT

These “readers” crave little more than reading the backs of their eyelids. They are caught in an all-day juggling act, and most books are too heavy to juggle.

The solution for parents and anyone else who is wildly distracted – and exhausted: short stories, and they must be funny. Think David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day or Ali Wong’s Dear Girls.

THE READERS SEEKING DEEPER MEANING IN THE OCCULT

In her 2008 book End of Days, the late psychic Sylvia Browne predicted that around 2020, “a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe.” Her prophecy is casting a spell over readers: Kim Kardashian West recently retweeted a photo of one of Browne’s passages, helping trigger a sudden spike in demand for the book.

THE ESCAPISTS RUNNING AWAY TO FANTASTICAL WORLDS

We hear the weather is nice in Narnia this time of year. Readers are fleeing to appealing worlds that share little in common with our own, like JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth and George RR Martin’s Westeros. Hogwarts, too. Enjoy the armchair vacation, escapists; no need to hurry back.

THE PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN WHO ARE READING (AND REREADING) EVERY KIDS BOOK THEY OWN

In that previous lifetime known as The Before, these readers might have curled up with Where the Crawdads Sing – now it is Where the Wild Things Are. Dark Places turned into Oh! The Places You’ll Go, and The Green Mile was replaced with Green Eggs and Ham.

A Seuss-ed out parent’s first stop post-quarantine: Checking out the maximum number of new titles from the library for a refreshed selection.

THE SEIZE-THE-DAY READERS KEEPING BUSY WITH NEW SKILLS

The overachievers among us will emerge from quarantine smarter – and with better buns. Those who are self-soothing by making bread might feast on Sourdough, a novel by Robin Sloan. Others will find inspiration from self-help gurus or in instructional tomes. Your apocalypse self turned out to be your best self? Girl, stop apologising, as Rachel Hollis would say.

THE NETFLIX ENTHUSIASTS WHO RAN OUT OF SHOWS TO WATCH – AND ARE READING THE BOOKS THEIR FAVOURITE SERIES WERE BASED ON

Those who have quarantine-and-chilled straight out of things to watch can find new material in the books that inspired their favorite shows. After binge-watching You, read the novel by Caroline Kepnes; or perhaps Harlan Coben’s The Stranger after streaming the Netflix series of the same name. There will even be time for a healthy debate on which was better, the book or adaptation.

THE BENCHED ATHLETES WHO CONSIDER TURNING PAGES A LESS THAN IDEAL BUT SOMEWHAT VIABLE EXERCISE OPTION

In the midst of the curveball that is this crisis, sporty titles are helping satiate those who typically prefer spring training to spring releases. War Fever, a new book by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith, examines how baseball converged with the country’s last terrible pandemic. Among the tidbits revealed: In 1918, Babe Ruth had the so-called Spanish flu twice – so baseball, at least, has been here before.

THE BUCKET-LIST READERS WHO ARE FINALLY CHECKING OFF WAR AND PEACE

Size matters to these readers, who have time on their hands and tomes on their shelves. Some are returning to their high school English syllabus, tackling those long, challenging titles that might otherwise have taken months to complete. Popular contenders include Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and Ulysses by James Joyce – all over 750 pages.

THE SOLO QUARANTINERS DESPERATE FOR HUMAN INTERACTION – AND SETTLING FOR STEAMY ROMANCE NOVELS

There is still time for a knight (or knightess) in protective armor to appear, pledging to remain by your side in quarantine and in freedom. In the meantime, the attention-starved are living vicariously through romance novels.

In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle, might keep these lonely hearts company, as would Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name.

THE MASACHISTS DEVOURING PANDEMIC SCI-FI

This global pandemic is only unprecedented to those who have not kept up with disease-plagued science fiction. Ah, the empathy readers now feel for characters grappling with deadly viruses, desolate towns and extraterrestrial complications. These books offer good perspective, too: Aliens have yet to descend to chase us out of quarantine.

Best of all, titles like Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and Cold Storage by David Koepp, have what we all want: an ending to this stranger-than-fiction madness.