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Reading on the rise as students are told to stay inside

Olivia Frenkel

Staff writer

Famed writer Mark Twain once said that “Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.” As the weeks in quarantine gradually accumulate, many Willamette students have turned to reading to pass the time and to escape from a world ridden with COVID-19.

One avenue to do so has been through book clubs. As students made their way back home, Nicole Kates (‘20) created a virtual book club for friends, swim teammates and acquaintances alike. 

“Because there are so many things coming to an end right now, creating something new felt important. It’s a really great way to be able to bring together people who had to go home,” said Kates. 

For their first few sessions, Kates chose to read “Born a Crime” by well-known comedian Trevor Noah. In his book, Noah reflects on his dangerous life as a mixed individual in South Africa during apartheid, yet he does so with the very evident use of comedy. “Noah does a really great job of infusing humor into very adverse situations and so I felt like this was a really relevant fit for our circumstances,” says Kate.

Caitlin Forbes (‘20) is a member of the book club and has enjoyed her experience thus far. She agreed with Kates on the importance of humor within the book and added: “It’s taught me to continue to look at things through all perspectives. There’s huge intersectionality between race and so many other aspects of human life, and getting such a unique perspective from an individual who lived in a world that was torn apart into two different sections and kind of being that bridge has been really impactful.”

Other students have immersed themselves into reading on an individual basis. Jade Macer (‘23) has been influenced by books her entire life. Her mother is a middle school librarian in Seattle and was recently featured on Seattle’s local news for providing a sanitary drive-through library for her students. Macer’s love for reading is evident, as she said,  “You get so many different lenses through these different characters and their thoughts and feelings, and this is so helpful especially now with understanding people and their frustrations. It’s also just fun to get out of your house!” She highly recommends the book “A Hope More Powerful than the Sea,” written by the United Nations’s Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming about a girl named Doaa from Syria who became a refugee on a fishing boat set for Europe.

Evan Segimoto (‘21) has started reading a book called “Denali” by adventure photographer Ben Moon, which documents Moon’s relationship with his dog during their struggles with cancer and subsequent treatment. “Reading allows people to share experience in great detail, especially in this book,” said Segimoto. “I think in this moment in time, it’s important to be reading and taking a break from screens to occupy our minds in a more creative sense where you get to build this new world in your head that the author is illustrating with their words.” 

Rey Takahashi (‘23) has always been an adamant reader. Since quarantine began, they have read “Wicked Saints” by Emily Saints Duncan, a young adult thriller and fairytale, and “We All Looked Up”  by Tommy Wallach, a fictional coming-of-age story. Though they have many favorites, they highly recommend the thriller “The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn, saying, “It’s actually going to be a movie soon, so there’s more incentive for everyone to read it! I really love the thriller genre in general and this one had a really good plot twist at the end and the writing style was really addicting.” said Takahashi. They commented on the importance of reading especially in the context of quarantine, saying, “Books are definitely important, since we’re all somewhere we don’t really want to be. If you have one that’s really good, it passes the time in a more educational way. There’s also just so much that books can offer, especially compared to a T.V. show. I feel like you have to look deeply more into it, because books have no visual aspect so you have to be more invested.”

Many Willamette students agree that reading during this time serves as a necessary outlet. It gives people a way to learn and reflect upon the experiences of others in order to revisit their own lives with new perspectives. Though the stress of COVID-19 has reached everyone, books are always a way to temporarily escape.

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