From thrillers to love stories, reading is keeping me sane in lockdown – Sydney Morning Herald

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In that first, long ago lockdown, the only thing that bothered me much was the abrupt closing of public libraries. I am a voracious reader with limited space and income; free lending libraries (for my money up there with public health, transport and education as a sign of a civilised society) are the answer to my bottomless appetite for reading material.
Working in the CBD as I do (well, did), the delightful City Library in Flinders Lane, with its piano and mini art gallery and its proximity to arguably the best cafe precinct in the CBD, was a weekly lunchbreak destination.
During lockdown I’ve picked up books that I’ve been meaning to read for years.Credit:iStock
In March 2020, desperately seeking books, I discovered to my sweet relief that my suburb is liberally endowed with “little libraries” – jauntily decorated mini chests or old, glass-fronted cupboards hoisted onto front fences or the low forks of pavement trees. Here, locals “leave a book, take a book”, as the instructions read.
These unpretentious gems have kept me sane through six lockdowns, a constant source of all kinds of literature. To my surprise, I have picked up books I had been meaning to read for years, like Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex – a masterpiece way ahead of its time. I also discovered some wonderful authors I had never heard of. I gobbled up Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, Gil Courtemanche’s A Sunday at the pool in Kigali and Days without End by Sebastian Barry – three of the most confronting and exquisitely written things I’ve read in an age.
Then, of course, you can always find thrillers and detective fiction – my comfort reads in trying times, such as in a pandemic. Your Jeffery Deavers, Susan Hills, Nicci Frenches, Peter Robinsons, Val McDermids, Elly Griffiths, the incomparable locals Garry Disher and the late lamented Peter Temple. And, being thrillers, you can pop them right back in the little box you found them in, as (mostly) they are not worth wasting limited shelf space on.
Free lending libraries are as important as free public health and education in a civilised society.Credit:Joe Armao
Although, having said that, one of the good things about having been a reader for as long as I have is that I have completely forgotten Whodunit in all these books, so I can quite happily read them again, reliving the delicious suspense.
Realising this set me to examining my own groaning bookshelves and finding that not only are there books there I haven’t read yet, but that those I have read have slipped from my memory and could well stand a revisit.
So, really, even if we – heaven forbid – have lockdowns till Christmas, I will be set. Between my own books and the charming book boxes on so many street corners of my neighbourhood, I will survive.
Clare Boyd-Macrae is a Melbourne writer.
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