Why we returned to reading

World

Why we returned to reading

This is how booksellers proved to be surprisingly resilient through the lockdowns of 2020

Frederick Studemann

It is a rare shaft of light in a dismal year: the return to reading. Against the backdrop of a deadly virus that saw many of us banished to our homes, the pandemic has been a boon to books. “Never has our need for stories and the art of storytelling been greater than in the time of Covid,” says Turkish-British author Elif Shafak.

To judge by reports from publishers and anecdotal evidence, we have turned to literature as a means to understand or escape from a world in upheaval. Lockdowns provided time to work through that pile of must-reads by the bedside — or not. The need for distraction and solace also found its mark in a renewed enthusiasm for poetry.

The fruits of this could be read on the bottom line of the results of publishers, which reported rising sales and profits. The attraction of the sector was underscored in the fight between industry heavyweights to acquire Simon & Schuster, the venerable US publisher, which was bought in November for $2.2bn (about R33,4bn) by Penguin Random House, a unit of German media group Bertelsmann...

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