Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What to read, or not, during a global pandemic March 17, 2020

The sun rises east of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


WITH A RECENT OVERLOAD of reading and listening to media reports on coronavirus, I need mental diversions. I continue to start each day by praying and reading devotionals. That’s mostly unchanged from pre-COVID, although the number and types of prayers are fluid. Beginning my morning this way calms and centers me. As a woman of faith, I need this reassuring, peaceful mindset that God is in control and will see us through this pandemic.

In the evenings, I settle into my recliner with a book or a magazine and hope that my tired eyes won’t cross (a vision problem fixed as a child, but not fixable again), rendering the pages unreadable. Sometimes I struggle to stay awake.


Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I love to read. For that reason I’m especially thankful I got to the library on Saturday and stocked up on reading materials. No empty shelves there. The City of Faribault closed Buckham Memorial Library on Monday to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We’ve no confirmed cases in my county. Yet. The library closing continues until the end of the month. Maybe longer. I appreciate that city leaders are being proactive in declaring a local state of emergency rather than reactive.


In Audrey’s reading pile.


At the time I visited the library, I had no idea the facility would close two days later. I’m glad I chose as many magazines and books as I did. I checked out six magazines ranging from architectural to lifestyle to food. And I have a stash of five books covering topics from farming to murders in Minnesota to mental health and more.


In Randy’s reading selections.


Now compare that to what my husband chose. Randy, not nearly as much of a reader as me, selected books about Putin, fish in Minnesota and, get this, plagues. Or more specifically, Diseases in History—Plague by Kevin Cunningham. As if we don’t have enough to think about with the current coronavirus global pandemic. Let’s toss in learning about the bubonic plague, the Black Death, the flu…

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


35 Responses to “What to read, or not, during a global pandemic”

  1. I love books and reading too. I do have the library app which is helpful because I can increase the font so I don’t have to wear reading glasses. 🙂

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    Sign in a bookstore window: Please note: The post-apocalyptic fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs.

  3. Interesting choice that mister man picked up at the library. I am actually trying out a kindle to see if I like it. I tried audio books, however; I like to read and not be read to. Happy Reading – Take Care 🙂 Happy St. Patrick’s Day too – may we be blessed with good cheer and good luck!

    • He always finds the most interesting books. Interesting for him, but not necessarily me. I admit to peeking at the Plague book.

      I totally forgot about St. Patrick’s Day. Thanks for the reminder. I had some pix I wanted to share that fit today. Maybe later, if I have time, I will add those here.

  4. I had to smile and then laugh at both your choices for reading material. Education of the mind is good and you never know where good ideas might come from even the book on Plagues.
    We had started watching The Last Ship when this all started as I told the Hubby the Navy had the right idea on handling a situation like this (actually some writer did but the Navy saves the day). We made it through season one and as the situation unfolded here we started to think maybe the writers were some sort of fortune tellers. Anyway, we are so busy right now haven’t watched season two. Real life is soooo much stranger than film. Stay safe and healthy. ❤️ And prayers from The Netherlands to all you in Minnesota.

    • I’m not familiar with The Last Ship. No surprise given I watch so few movies.

      Glad I could make you laugh this morning.

      Situations are evolving daily on a local, state and national level. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has ordered all restaurants, bars, breweries, etc., to close by 5 pm today. Food deliveries and drive-up can continue. But no dining in. The Mall of America has closed. The list of closures and cancellations is lengthy. My church has now decided to cancel all services, meetings, activities, etc., for which I am thankful.

      Thank you for your support and prayers for us Minnesotans.

      • Well, I would like to share that things are better here. But… hubby came home from work very very stressed. It is a bad day when grown people are crying at work because they have to make hard decisions about who is needed for in the company and who isn’t and will be put on unpaid leave until this crisis passes. Even my neighbor who is usually very helpful and friendly (old ex Dutch Marine) bit my head off today when he found out I was getting chickens. Yup… that bad! Pray for all of us and let’s hope that level heads and kindness rises above this and we came get through this together as a human race.

      • That’s great advice. I am sorry about the situation your husband is dealing with at work. I’m hearing too many stories related to job loss and resulting stress and worry over how bills will be paid. As I write, my second daughter is not working as she was told yesterday not to come in for medical appointments. She’s an interpreter. It’s possible she may be able to do tele-interpreting with the clinics and hospitals she currently services. She’s reached out to a tele-interpreting service for work. Likewise, her husband, who works in sales, is no longer working. But he’s getting a basic guaranteed pay (much lower than when he’s earning commission, but it’s something). I’m concerned about us, too, given Randy works for a small business.

        Like you, I pray we can get through this together with level heads and kindness rising. But I know nerves will fray the longer this continues.

  5. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    Right now, our libraries are closed for two days, but I am not optimistic they will reopen that quickly. I was interested in one of your featured book choices, The Farmer’s Son by John Connell. I will have to see if I can request it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • I have not started reading the farmer book yet. Given the library is closed and waiving all fines, etc., I don’t have to worry about reading it before the due date.

      Yup, I don’t think you should expect your library to re-open.

  6. Gunny Says:

    On the way home from Washington on the Brazos where I had done a shown and tell while early 1800s period dressed. On the way back, Blue Bonnets were everywhere in a cemetery in LaGrange, Texas. Cemetery was started somewhere in the early 1800s. As a fore shadow of todays events, a Cholera outbreak had claimed the lives of several internees in about 1867 as evidenced by several headstones so marked. In Brenham, Texas, one of our favorite stops is an Ice-Cream and sandwich shop with a book store across the street with a great selection of used bookss. I made several selections and am stocked up. Both Brenham and LaGrange were heavily populated by German, Swiss, Poles & Chez pioneers as well as Yankees. The Sorbian / Wends were just west of them in Serbin , Texas as of 1854.

    May the luck of the Irish always be with you.

  7. valeriebollinger Says:

    I love the sign in the Iowa bookstore window! It’s good to laugh.
    I did get some books from our library before they closed. We also bought a few jig saw puzzles from the thrift store!

  8. I’m with you Audrey, blogged a similar topic today….great minds think alike 🙂

    • Jackie, I appreciate hearing your perspective as a nurse, mom, grandma and woman of faith. Well written, my friend. Just a note that I’ve been reading your posts but my comments have apparently not gone through. I’ve had that issue with at least one another blog. Sigh. Technology.

      • Jackie Hemmer Says:

        That’s crazy, I’ll see if it’s something on my end??? I dont get many comments, most are on Facebook as I post my blog there as well. Keep trying my friend

      • Will do. My blog reading and commenting time have been limited as I’m working on projects for Warner Press and helping out with church stuff as we shift to an online ministry focus. And I’m also trying to keep up with this blog.

    • Walter Says:

      Hola. Visité tu blog. Es muy agradable y ya está agregado a mis favoritos.

  9. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    I laughed out loud when I saw what Randy chose for reading material during this time. Everyone is different! I’ve been limiting my news exposure, catching up at, say, 5 p.m. rather than listening to the 10 p.m. news so that it isn’t the last thing I hear before bedtime. I’m also someone who needs to begin the day in a peaceful way. We’ve been taking early morning walks when no one else is out, listening to the birds, watching the sky lighten, letting our dog out, breathing in calm. Late in the day I hit my yoga mat. As for reading, I have an iPad on which I read all kinds of magazines (I subscribe to Apple News+, which offers access to tons of periodicals for a monthly fee) and I’ve been focused on cooking and home decor, mostly. Something less stressful. And I just finished reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, one of the books Mick gave me for Christmas. I have a stack of books waiting for me, none of which are related to pandemics! I’m carefully balancing my news consumption and other reading. And Mick has a bunch of seeds, growth medium, and starter pots ready to roll soon, with a table and grow light set up in our empty guest room. Spring is being welcomed no matter what.

  10. Walter Says:

    🙂 _ Este artículo me sacó una sonrisa.
    Cada persona aborda las dificultades de diferentes maneras.
    Yo no leería acerca de las enfermedades en la historia en estas circunstancias, pero Randy lo hace sin problemas. Saludo.

  11. Walter Says:

    En estas circunstancias me hago esta pregunta: ¿Qué haríamos sin nuestros buenos amigos, los libros?

  12. Ruth Says:

    We read Where the Crawdads Sing for virtual bookclub.

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