Just two months ago I was eating dinner in a restaurant with a friend, but times have definitely changed again and things are closing back up in response to the strong second wave we see on the way. Daily case counts now are over ten times what they were in August and higher than they were in the first wave. And so, back inside we all go to wait for a vaccine or some other positive development.
Other than work I’ve had only a couple of in-person socially-distanced meetings with a friend since March but more and more I’m adapting to online connection. The monthly silent book club meetup I would go to at a cafe nearby has moved mostly online with an occasional socially-distanced park meetup. In response I’ve set up another online meetup. One unexpected advantage is that the group is no longer limited to those who can show up at a cafe in Toronto. They only need to be in a time zone that lets them be awake during the meeting. And so this month I was able to meet up with several people – some I’ve met in person, others online, and some from this blog. Last time we saw:
Betsy from Connecticut who writes at Saved by Words
Lakshmi from Mukhamani
Vicki from Bookgaga
Anupriya from Chasing Miles
Katherine from Ontario who writes at Totally Filmi
Sushma, the daughter of my very first Hindi teacher
In this last meetup we had four countries represented: India, Canada, UK and the USA. I love these meetings on so many levels. When you get a group of any people together talking about books you will hear about things you didn’t know about before, but if those people are from multiple different countries, then you have even more possibilities of hearing about new things.
With a smaller group we also have a bit more flexibility to talk longer and have more informal dialogue, asking questions about each other’s books or discussing the ideas in the books themselves or even just our daily life. This sort of connection is nourishing any time, but during the pandemic it is especially so.
Books that were discussed this month were:
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
Liturgy of the Ordinary – Tish Harrison Warren
Lost Family – John Barton
The End of Me – John Gould (I went and downloaded this one right away)
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X – Les Payne, Tamara Payne
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America – Colin Woodard
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
One Part Woman – Perumal Murugan
Dead Souls – Nikolai Gogol
Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway (Including “Hills Like White Elephants” and Rabindranath Tagore (including A Wife’s Letter)
King Arthur’s Ghost – Kamalesh Sharda
Indians on Vacation – Thomas King
Pet – Akwaeke Emezi
Almost American Girl – Robin Ha
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space – Amanda Leduc
The City We Became – N. K. Jemisin
An Enduring Wilderness: Toronto’s Natural Parklands – Robert Burley
Frying Plantain – Zalika Reid-Benta
I’m already looking forward to next month – now with a significantly longer to-read list. As we go into winter, particularly with the pandemic, it feels as important to have a good list of books to read as it is to have warm clothes.
I also think that two other pandemic and winter “essentials” are addressed by this. Genial social contact is so important, and while some may not enjoy virtual meetings as much as in-person ones, I’ve found Zoom meetings to be really great and with the added bonus that we’re no longer limited by geography, lockdowns, or “family bubbles.” If you want to hang out with 50 friends, you can do it.
And finally, perhaps the most important thing I learned from the pandemic: New intellectual input is so important. If you are doing the same limited things every day then our minds wear paths with their thoughts. We become prone to repetitive thinking. This is probably fine if you’re having great thoughts, but if there are worries, anxieties or sadness, this can be no fun. New ideas: books, classes, walks in new places, movies and meetups when regularly sought out, push our brain out of the ruts we’ve worn. So try something new today – and keep on doing it and you’ll be surprised at the difference it can make.
And if you want to join in next month’s meetup – message me. You’re welcome to join!