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Book worms The rise of reading for pleasure has been an unexpected 'prose' of the pandemic

"One of the unexpected 'prose' of the pandemic, however, has been the rise of reading for pleasure," writes Deirdre Reynolds.

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Camilla, Britain's Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla, Britain's Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla, Britain's Duchess of Cornwall

Forget self-care, as lockdown drones on for another five weeks, these days it's about shelf-care.

Bouncing off the same four walls for the past year has certainly been challenging.

One of the unexpected 'prose' of the pandemic, however, has been the rise of reading for pleasure.

More than 13 million books were sold here last year, new figures by Nielsen BookScan show.

Code Name Bananas by David Walliams, Beyond the Tape by Marie Cassidy and Home Stretch by Graham Norton are just some of the top titles that helped book stores across the country enjoy their best year since 2008 even as doors remained closed.

Not that you'll spot any of them on the carefully-curated bookshelves that have provided the virtual backdrop to our lives over the past 12 months. Remote living has given us a glimpse through the keyhole of everyone from colleagues to celebrities.

But it's no longer enough to hide the mountain of laundry - or the kids - on Zoom calls.

Now a well-stocked bookshelf has become the ultimate status symbol for ambitious professionals everywhere - or just one more reason to be thankful for the 'blur' button.

There wasn't a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey in sight when Oscar winner Cate Blanchett showed off her impressively brainy book collection - including all 20 volumes of The Oxford English Dictionary - on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert during lockdown.

Author J.K. Rowling had bibliophiles drooling when she shared a video of her colour-coded bookshelves, featuring a copy of the Iliad and The Lord of the Rings.

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JK Rowling

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

While royal watchers were tickled to see a number of Harry Potter books in a snap of the Duchess of Cornwall returning to work in her home study following a 'Sirius' Covid scare.

A heavily-thumbed copy of Twilight or The Art of the Deal doesn't have to spell the end of your career prospects though, after staff at Penguin Random House publishers shared downloadable photos of their own too-cool-for-school bookshelves to help people wow co-workers.

Stateside, some home workers have even gone a step further by hiring the services of Brattle Book Shop in a bid to give off an erudite air as the dishwasher thrashes in the next room.

Ordinarily called on to cleverly stock bookshelves for TV shows, movies and show homes, the Boston company has reported a 100pc increase in residential clients since the pandemic began.

And don't bother splashing out on hardbacks of Ulysses or War and Peace that you're never going to crack open, says owner Ken Gloss, who reckons lighter titles like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy displayed at face level pack just as much of a punch.

Friday marked Ireland Reads Day, while this Thursday will see children everywhere dress up a character from their favourite book for World Book Day.

But pop star Tony Mortimer is proof you're never too old to put down the screen and rediscover the magic of reading after the former East 17 star revealed how he read his first book at the age of 50 during lockdown - ploughing through another 70 since.

"[Reading] dragged me in like that girl that fell down the rabbit hole, Alice in Wonderland," says the singer. "I remember the first book, I thought I'm gonna force myself to get to the end of this. And I did, and I've just fallen in love with reading. It's absolutely escapism from the world."

As truth continues to prove stranger than fiction, that's a feeling you won't find on any 'credibility bookcase'.

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