Give thanks for the gift of reading this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Courtesy)

If the year 2020 were a book, it would get a lousy review. If it were a bird, I think we can agree it’d be a turkey.

Like most people, I spend some time each day trying to make lemonade out of the two-ton bag of lemons dropped on our doorstep by COVID-19. And never have I been more thankful for the gift of reading. 

As you reflect on blessings and ponder how you’ll make it through unsettled weeks ahead, allow reading to improve even your most challenging days. That includes those of you who haven’t picked up a book in far too long. Give it a try:

Calgon, take me away. You know it’s true… some days you want to run away. The power of stories can add comfort to frightening days and help us escape from the horrors of viruses and politics. Scientific studies show that 30 minutes to an hour of reading can reduce our stress. We’ll be saner and calmer if we read a little every day.

Guilt-free pleasures. If ever there was a time to read whatever you want—cozy mysteries, romance, fantasy, comic books—this is that time. Whatever it takes to get through the week… 

An opportunity to study deeper topics. Maybe the pandemic has left you in need of mental exercise or with a little more time to take an intense dive with your reading. I’ve loved seeing, for instance, the many books about social justice that have soared onto bestseller lists.

Dependability of new releases. While many supply chains have been disrupted and our favorite TV shows (I’m talking about you, “Survivor”) have been delayed, new books keep coming out each week. While printing sources have been a challenge for publishers, books continue to be written, edited, published and distributed.

That brings me to a new appreciation for e-books and audiobooks. I enjoy holding a traditional paper book in my hands. But, man, oh, man, aren’t e-books and audiobooks wonderful during days when we don’t want to go by a library or into a store? You don’t have to own a Kindle to read digital books, by the way. You can download the Kindle or Apple Books or Kobo app free and read on most smartphones, tablets or laptops. And you can sign in to your local library and check out a near endless stream of enjoyable e-books and audiobooks—free.

Gift ideas: Book recommendations for the male readers in your life

Let’s shout it again…Thank you, libraries. Shreve Memorial and Bossier and other library systems have done a phenomenal job of putting books in the hands of readers during tough circumstances. Even with a pandemic, they have a range of offerings from curbside pickup to browsing, and the activities they offer online are awesome. Google your favorite library, and give thanks for all you’ll find.

Get well soon. You know that the U.S. has set new records for COVID-19 infections, and my home has not been spared. My husband was diagnosed at a hospital emergency room in mid-October, and we’ve had to hunker down even more than before. A major remedy? Good books. If you or someone you know is ailing, reading is a low-impact form of entertainment. Losing yourself in a story can help pass time when you are housebound.

Whittling down that to-be-read stack. Hasn’t it been satisfying to read through the books piled on your bedside table or shelved long ago? One Shreveport friend read through her Agatha Christie collection. Small blessings in tough times. Hooray! Now we can buy more books.

A sense of connection when lonely. Book lovers continue to gather via social media and online services like Zoom. I’ve participated in book clubs and listened in on conversations with favorite—and new-to-me—authors. Stop by my Facebook author page and say hello if you need some easy book talk. And, of course, sites like Goodreads continue to give a firehose stream of recommendations of books of all sorts. A huge thanks, too, for reviewers. As an author, they help so much. As a reader, I appreciate knowing what others think of books I’m considering. The online book community can be a heartwarming place. 

The powerful First Amendment. During this year that has been painful in so many ways, I have renewed gratitude for freedom of speech and the many books that have been published about politics, history and more. Many of these have sprung from fine investigative reporting. I don’t believe there are alternate facts, although we may have different opinions. Journalism matters.

More Judy Christie: Readers toss some books, pick up others

My morning Bible reading. Whatever your religion or spiritual inclination, I hope you find words of wisdom and guidance during this unsettling season. My sweet Mama, who died too young, taught me the power of a morning quiet time. I can still see her sitting on the red-and-black Mediterranean sofa in our house on Samford Avenue drinking a cup of coffee and reading her Bible. Never have I found this morning reflection more important than this year.

I’m grateful for readers, for writers, nouns and verbs, education, entertainment, enlightenment and encouragement through books. May your blessings be bountiful and your cares scarce.

Happy Pandemic Thanksgiving.

Book columnist Judy Christie is the author of 17 books and co-authored with Lisa Wingate “Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society,” the nonfiction sequel to Wingate’s bestselling novel “Before We Were Yours,” For more info, see: Follow her on Facebook at JudyChristie/Author.

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