Villanova professor says books offer escape, connection during COVID-19 pandemic

Mark Abrams
May 25, 2020 - 7:47 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Villanova professor Jody Ross believes books can be just the prescription we need in this time of pandemic. 

“For one thing, it’s companionship, where so many people who are maybe home alone by themselves, and others with a partner or a couple of people,” she said. “We can leave our homes and go other places and meet new people. Emily Dickinson said there is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”

Ross teaches a class that focuses on the role of medicine in literature and doctors’ use of writing as a means of escape. She says committing to reading a book, can give one a sense of connection that goes beyond the routine.

“It fills the day. It gives some structure to the day or the week or the month,” she said. “Reading, of course, is most often an escape from the boredom or the worries that we have.”

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Beyond the escape, Ross says, books sometimes offer insight into the circumstances of present day. For instance, a book might introduce a character who is “just like us” and who might inspire readers and help them get through the isolation of a pandemic. 

“There’s a book, it’s called ‘The Plague,’ by Albert Camus, that actually tells the story of people who have to be quarantined and all of the feelings they go through. So books can be like medicine that way,” she said.

Ross says in our very connected world, reading can be a shared experience, even if we can’t see who we’re sharing it with.

“Right now I’m reading ‘War and Peace’ along with 3,000 people around the world. And we all comment on it on Instagram every day — you know, a passage that we like that we’re reading,” Ross said. “So, again, this is tremendous companionship, and also challenge, because it’s a hard book that will take us several months to read together.”

And those “hard” books don’t need to be heavy as well. Books delivered electronically to a reader or tablet offer quick and cheap access to time-honored titles as well as exposure to the work of up-and-coming authors.