It is a rare shaft of light in a dismal year: the return to reading. Against the backdrop of a deadly virus that saw many of us banished to our homes, the pandemic has been a boon to books. “Never has our need for stories and the art of storytelling been greater than in the time of Covid,” says the author Elif Shafak.

To judge by reports from publishers and anecdotal evidence, we have turned to literature as a means to understand or escape from a world in upheaval. Lockdowns provided time to finally work through that pile of must-reads by the bedside — or not. The need for distraction and solace also found its mark in a renewed enthusiasm for poetry...

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