Surrounded: How Books Are Keeping Me Going in Quarantine

My name is Marina, and I’m addicted to books.

They’re everywhere. I stack them anywhere there is an open space. My closet holds more books than clothes. Books serve as stands for mirrors, lamps, and jewelry stands. A bench I expected to refurbish years ago has become a makeshift bookcase, with books of all kinds stacked on and arranged underneath. I do have a bookshelf in my room, but it’s full. The top shelf has all of my signed books, which is nearing capacity. Everything is haphazardly organized; if I sent someone in for a specific book, they would be hard pressed to find it. I know where everything is, though. I could find it in seconds.

I don’t discriminate on what books I enter in my collection. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and every cross-genre in between can hold its own place. If the title or cover intrigues me, I take it. If I’ve heard good things about an author before, I take it. Anything that remotely touches the genre of true crime or mystery automatically winds up on my shelf. Whether I’m in Barnes and Noble, a used bookstore off the beaten path, or I come across a little free library, there is no such thing as self-control.

Which is why, inevitably, my parents have begun to discourage me from adopting these new stories, especially since I recently moved in with them. Money and space are tight. I’m currently one of the more fortunate people able to keep a job where I have some sort of income coming in, even if it is only $40 a week. My part-time nannying job is off the table, and it’s still to be determined if my summer job is going to work out. The global pandemic has weaved its way into every aspect of my life.

I have many symptoms that line up with COVID-19, minus one or two. I know there are thousands like me, who are sick but have no idea what could possibly be wrong with us. The symptoms aren’t severe enough to put me in the hospital (not yet, God willing), but not mundane enough so that urgent care would even consider letting me walk through the doors. In my state, like many, we are experiencing a severe test shortage, so the only way I’d know if I have COVID-19 is if I were to land in the hospital, on a ventilator, alone.

I am locked in my room indefinitely. It’s about 15×10 feet, and most of the day is spent in my bed, about five paces from my door. There are so many things I took for granted. Sitting on the couch with my mom watching our favorite shows. Sneaking into my Dad’s office and giving him a hug “good morning” while he’s on a conference call. Sitting at the foot of the bed at night, petting the dog and talking with my parents. I can’t even say that I am “living” in quarantine; if anything, I’m just surviving.

But I have my books.

Next to my bed, there is The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, my favorite nonfiction author. The sleek, ominous black jacket with its stark, white font screams for attention. And, it’s signed. Cue the heavenly choir. I can feel my chest tighten with excitement just thinking about it. Sometimes I’ll just touch it, feel the texture of the book jacket like a kid would a present underneath the Christmas tree. I can’t wait to tear it open.

If I look just beyond it, I can see the vivid spines of celebrity memoirs in flashy colors, like neon lights. Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, Holly Madison’s Down the Rabbit Hole, and Leah Remini’s Troublemaker, each vying desperately for my attention. Underneath those three is another book, Actual Innocence, a true crime book by three different authors, enters the fray with its metallic sheen. Above them, the bright hues of From Where You Dream, The Real Lolita, The Secret Miracle, The Murrow Boys, and How Not to Write a Novel make this column of books the most pleasing to look at in my entire room.

Just through the crack in my closet doors, I can see my collection of Agatha Christie novels. Small paperbacks with prices of 98 cents that I picked up in used bookstores up and down the East Coast. There isn’t a single cover that looks the same. Evil Under the Sun returns my gaze, a weathered woman looking tired underneath driftwood branches. Another woman in blurry shades of purple runs in fear on the cover of The Mirror Crack’d. A gargantuan and horrifically detailed fly hovers in a dining room on The Secret Adversary. Five Little Pigs is covered in art deco gold font, with a small image of a candle sitting on a palette that is far to clean to belong to an actual artist. All these and more stacked neatly, ready to be investigated.

My current read, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, is kept under my pillow, never far out of my reach. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite, but every now and then, I’ll come across a description, like “cauterized waste” to describe the Southwestern desert, that’ll make me snap my fingers in the silence of my bedroom. Even though reading that book is like trudging through mud, it’s worth it to find one of those beautiful lines. It’s a treasure hunt without ever having to leave bed.

I’m surrounded by my loves, by the entire world kept in the pages of these books. When I’m craving a hug from my family, I lie on the floor, my shoulders and hips against the spines, trying to absorb their sensation through osmosis. Any reader knows that sensation I’m talking about, but it’s rarely described. It’s a calming excitement, a reassuring temptation that wraps you in the experiences of the universe.

It’s easy to feel like I’m drowning in the dread and uncertainty of my current situation. Even though the pandemic is infecting everything, when it touched my books, it did not cause them to wither. Rather, it amplified their presence, made them shine more, like pearls at the bottom of the ocean.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels


IMG_0038Marina Lindland is an MFA candidate in Fiction Writing at Fairfield University. She is a private tutor residing in Maryland, and loves recommending new books for her students to read. Her spare time is often spent with stories, whether it is writing down her own, or discovering the stories of others in her hometown.

129 thoughts on “Surrounded: How Books Are Keeping Me Going in Quarantine

    • marinalindland says:

      There are so many! I love reading Agatha Christie (as you could probably tell), but I will literally read anything. “Looking for Esperanza” by Adriana Paramo is a must-read. “Fahrenheit 451” was like a shock to the system. “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine is a poetry book that I’m drawn back to over and over. Gosh, there are so many… every book that I’ve read has captured a piece of my heart.

      Liked by 5 people

  1. ivanabikorovih says:

    I can relate to the books obsession. I wanted to move to the island of my ancestors before this pandemic and the first thing was packing the books. Long story, but it resembles yours.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Joanna Journals says:

    I love this! I’ve definitely rediscovered my love for books recently, and I’ve found that sitting down to read really centres me, and brings me back to living in the moment. I love how it feels, and it’s nice to see someone else feeling it too 😊

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Kasia Maciakiewicz says:

    Beautiful! Books are great company. For me it is like verbalised someones thoughts without human body next to me. I love books – because I believe everyone has the story to tell. All the best beautiful soul!

    Like

  4. emilyunderworld says:

    This is so beautifully written, Marina!

    Books have been keeping me going through quarantine too. I’m lucky enough to live with two other book addicts, we’re always raiding each other’s shelves and recommending good reads to each other.

    All the best, Emily.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Toluwalogo says:

    Wow. This is beautiful. I love the way you so fluidly express yourself with words. There’s nothing like it. I also have been doing a lot of reading this period. There’s not much else to do. Any recommendations?

    Liked by 2 people

    • marinalindland says:

      Depends on what you like to read! “Looking for Esperanza” by Adriana Paramo is one of my favorites (nonfiction). “Stiff” by Mary Roach was fascinating– she was able to take such a morbid topic and not only make it palatable, but it was actually funny. If you’re more of a fiction person, “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan was great. “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein made me cry uncontrollably, but it was just beautiful. Hope this helps!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Clare says:

    True indeed! Interesting thoughts 💭 Books also kept me going during this period, writing about books and sharing them on my wordpress are essential to the soul ☕️

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Lauren says:

    I love the concept you included of “adopting stories”. This is how I felt when I was a kid when I had my shelves and shelves of books. I loved collecting more tomes, and felt like I was giving the story a space in my house as a family member. I have a small close-knit collection now, but I love living vicariously through your selection of reads.

    Like

  8. runjumpskip says:

    Reading is a treasure that was lost in the modern world drowning under a sea of must haves and need to’s and now that we all have time, I am hoping more people are escaping to the world of books.
    I enjoyed your post and have put a link to your blog on our community page. I hope this is ok, if not please let me know and I wil remove it.

    Liked by 3 people

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