I know we left 2020 in the dust (not that 2021 is looking all that much better so far), but forget that for a minute—let’s look back at the top titles borrowed from Overdrive and Hoopla in the past year, and see what kinds of trends have emerged in these, dare I say, unprecedented times.
As the outside world closed up, forcing us all to turn inwards, what sort of activities did you find yourself doing? If you found yourself reading a ton more than normal, you’re in good company (conversely, if you found yourself unable to concentrate on books, you are also in good company). While plenty of people found themselves in a reading rut thanks to the existential crises caused by COVID, the general trend of reading during lockdown actually increased overall. A study out of the UK reported an almost doubled rate in reading, from 3.5 hours a week to a reported six. From the same study, “A third said they read more printed books, 18% consumed more e-books, and 9% listened to more audiobooks”. A third of people reading more paper books in a single year is nothing to sneeze at.
But stats like this are actually not surprising; there is historical precedence for this kind of thing. An industry analyst for NDP (a market research firm) notes that historically, book sales are resistant to economic downturn; even the Great Recession of 2008 saw a year-over-year increase in book sales. While on the surface this may come as a shock, it makes sense if you consider books for their personal value rather than just their financial cost. When the going gets rough, as it most certainly did in 2020, people often turn to books not just as a form of entertainment, but also for escapism, distraction, and for mental wellbeing.
Quarantine life has posed many alternatives for us to consider–from how we work, to how we cope with stress–and this is especially true with reading habits. I have been reading a lot more, often for hours at night to decompress. Some days, though, I am not in the mood for heavy reading, but want to enjoy some literary entertainment with the fast accessibility of a movie or TV show. Graphic Novels have always filled in this gap for me insofar as they occupy the disparate space between abstract language and strict visual signfier; graphic novels fuse the signifier and signified seamlessly for an engaging literary experience that has the depth of a novel with the visual cues of the best visual mediums. Below is nine recommended graphic novels that I’ve read separated according to general age range. I encourage teens and adults to read “down” from their age group as these picks transcend their audiences’ age range.
Coltrane was a true virtuoso. Unlike Mozart, though, he wasn’t born a musical genius. Instead, he practised, practised, practised. On the bus during road trips, he would shadow exercise his fingering on the sax for hours on endlessly. Endlessly curious, his musical career changed jazz and popular music’s trajectory like no other artist—encompassing Be Bop/Hard Bop, Blues, Pop, Avant-Garde, Free Jazz, and Ballads. What sets Coltrane apart from his contemporaries and modern artists for me is that his musical voice helps smooth my worries, has eased my pain over some of my most wretched heartaches, has helped me discover patience within myself, and continues so effortlessly to permeate my cerebral and spiritual faculties like no one else. Not everyone can say that their favourite artist named a song after them either (wink wink). I’ve been listening to a lot of Coltrane while I work from home—indeed, as I write this—to encourage a flow that sweeps me into an effortless effort. Coltrane has such a massive discography from his tragically shortened life that I thought I’d highlight some of my favourites to get you started. All albums here are hyperlinked (click on the pictures) to their Hoopla links. The album above, from the superb 2017 documentary, is a great general introduction to the breath of his work. What follows are some of my favourites.