By Rosie Wylor-Owen

Human beings are well-practiced escape artists. Maybe not the hyper-flexible acrobat-style escape artists that lock themselves in steel coffins with seventeen padlocks, but we’re still pretty good. We might never break out of a locked box six leagues under the sea, but we are highly trained at escaping the dull parts of our realities.

Most of us experience dullness at least once in a typical day, whether it’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the hundreds of other commuters on the way to work or our day jobs themselves. We’re only human and we’re biologically designed to minimise discomfort and typing up the boss’s audio files can be pretty darn uncomfortable.

So, sometimes we daydream, we look at memes and we watch cat videos on YouTube. But if you’re like me, you’ll pull the ultimate escape-act: reading. There’s no better way to teleport out of this world and into an exciting one, consequence-free (unless Janet catches you with your nose in a book instead of writing that report).

There is no better escape than losing yourself in an epic book. Following a new character into a world apart from our own where the impossible is possible and there is guaranteed to be a thrill around the next corner. Heart-warming romances, action-packed adventures and more than a little magic.

In the last few weeks, our reality has changed drastically. We all face the prospect of being holed up in our homes for weeks at a time, limiting our interactions with people and making our lives that little bit harder. There is no banishing our worries that we might become ill during this Corona virus pandemic and that our livelihoods might be at risk. Those are iron-clad fears that sink deep and keep us awake at night but like I said, we’re naturally programmed for escapism.

Times are harder now than they have been for some time and for those of us that were already going through hard times, they are harder still now. For our sanity, escapism has never been more important. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we try and forget our problems and “learn a new skill” or whatever else strangers suggest we do in lieu of work on social media. But we owe it to ourselves to press pause on our anxieties.

In response to the Corona virus, indie authors around the world are rallying to provide free reading material for anyone who is stuck indoors with nothing but their worries for company. Pages, groups and threads are cropping up all over social media to help us keep our sanity. With free books on hand, we have the opportunity to escape this reality for a few hours at a time and it won’t thin our wallets.

No matter what our situations, whether we are coping or struggling, we deserve a few moments of respite chaos that is beyond our control. So, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read for months but couldn’t because you were too busy. Browse the free books on offer online and stock up your novels. Make your to-read pile so high you couldn’t dream of getting through it in a lifetime.

We are the world’s best escape artists and our time is now.