COVID-19: Education can be entertaining if it involves reading for pleasure

UBC experts recommend books for those who now have time to reconnect with leisurely reading

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      Early exposure to reading is known to be important for the development of grammar and spelling skills, vocabulary, and general world knowledge. Students tend to achieve more in life if they have been taught to cultivate independent reading habits, especially from an early age.

      Education—and its allied benefits—never stops when good reading habits persist into adulthood, even with reading purely for pleasure and entertainment purposes.

      The Reading Agency, a U.K. charity whose mission is to get everyone "reading their way to a better life", promotes reading as therapeutic for isolation-induced loneliness and beneficial for managing adults' health and well-being through the selection of "helpful" books.

      It also notes research that appears to suggest that frequent readers have lower incidence of dementia as they age and obtain positive effects on stress and depression.

      Reading for pleasure throughout one's life is a special focus of the agency. As it says on its website: "In addition to the health benefits, reading for pleasure has social benefits and can improve our sense of connectedness to the wider community. Reading increases our understanding of our own identity, improves empathy and gives us an insight into the world view of others."


      With that in mind, we present some book picks for adults who might be interested in reigniting their reading habit during these days of self-isolation. Workplace priorities, commutes, everyday errands, and many social interactions have been drastically reduced for lots of people, leaving leisure time that could be partly filled by picking up a book.

      The choices, from a release issued by UBC, have been compiled by six associate, assistant, and adjunct professors from the English literature department and creative writing program. 

      Following are the academics and their picks: some of the books are classics or have won recent awards; some are fiction and some are not; there is also history and poetry, even personal essays represented here. (For individual book reviews, go to the UBC release.)

      Jenny Lee Ferguson (adjunct professor, creative writing): Spellhacker, by M.K. England; Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legrand; and The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad.

      Lise Gaston (assistant professor, English department): Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; The Innocents, by Michael Crummey; and Angular Unconformity,  by Don McKay.

      C.E. Gatchalian (adjunct professor, creative writing): Illness as Metaphor, by Susan Sontag; Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius; and Everyday Ubuntu, by Mungi Ngomane.

      Dallas Hunt (assistant professor of Indigenous literature, English department): nîtisânak, by Lindsay Nixon; Disintegrate/Dissociate, by Arielle Twist; and This Wound Is a World, by Billy-Ray Belcourt.

      Judith Paltin (assistant professor, English department): The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu); The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro; and Ulysses, by James Joyce.

      Timothy Taylor (associate professor, creative writing): End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood, by Jan Redford; Imperiled Ocean, by Laura Trethewey; and On the Up, by Shilo Jones.