Bookish TED Talks For When You Can’t Read Right Now

We are all going through very uncertain times right now, and many of the things that once comforted us like reading have become unmanageable. Plus, all the social media pressure to be productive does not help. If you’re like me and have anxiety, it’s been hard to do anything more than scroll through Instagram, refresh your news outlets, and sit on the couch with snacks, and you know what? That’s okay! But I have also felt the need to look up things that comfort me and make me feel more like my everyday self. Reading is one of these things; however, just thinking about it is sometimes overwhelming and pushes me further away from something I love deeply.

One thing that I found helps a lot is watching TED Talks, specifically bookish ones. I always feel a bit more motivated and calmer after watching them. I feel like my mind is awake and focused even if only for a little while, because they give me new ideas and make me feel productive. Plus, they are free and don’t give me productivity anxiety when I don’t continue them like online classes. Just remember to take your time, do whatever you want to make yourself feel better, and stay sane throughout these uncertain times.

How Many Lives Can You Live? by Sarah Kay

In this talk, spoken-word poet Sarah Kay delivers two poems describing her many lives in this world. Kay can be an astronaut, a ballerina, and a princess all in one lifetime. She has found this inspiration and strength through poetry and literature, where she found worlds where she has been able to live all the lives she wanted to live.

How Books Can Open Your Mind by Lisa Bu

Bu talks about her frustrated dreams in childhood first as a gymnast and then later as an opera singer, in a post-Cultural Revolution in China. Born to a set of practical parents who wanted her to become an engineer like them, Bu always knew she wanted to be an artist and explore the world but could not find anyone who took her ambitions seriously until she turned to books. Finding exemplary feminist role models, inspiring artist narratives, and adventure memoirs, Bu describes how books help her find a calling in life and were instrumental in helping her deal with every obstacle on her way.

The Hilarious Art of Books Design by Chip Kidd

One of my favorite TED Talks of all time, Kidd has been behind some of my favorite cover designs of all time. In this TED Talk, he breaks down his creative process, love of the book, and all of that with a witty sense of humor. From 1Q84 to Jurassic Park, Kidd explains in able detail how the cover of a book is made. Kidd has several TED Talks, all of which I highly recommend.

What We Learned From 5 Million Books by Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden

A lighthearted and funny talk, Michel and Aiden explain how, through their love of books, they helped created one of the world’s biggest book databases. Which can help researchers, readers, and anyone can find what they need in almost any century as long as it has been put into paper.

What’s The Fastest Way To Alphabetize Your Library by Chand John

Part of the TED Ed series, this illustrated talk helps you understand how to categorize your books better, and deal with statistical problems. If you ever wanted to know how can librarians deal with so many options for cataloging or so many books to catalog, this talk will help you understand how these methods are created and which one works the best for you.

Sci-fi Stories That Imagine A Future Africa by Nnedi Okorafor

Author Nnedi Okorafor talks about the new age of African genre writing. Focusing specifically on science fiction, Okorafor discusses the new generation of African sci-fi authors and how the genre uses of myths and history to create a new future for the continent. Considering her creative process and the history behind her work, Okorafor believes that sci-fi can create new doors of possibility for the younger African generations in imagining their future, as well as that of their cultures.

The Healing Power of Reading by Michelle Kuo

Author Michelle Kuo discusses the restorative and empathetic powers of the written word. Kuo focuses on how reading and writing can create deep and meaningful connections in groups and cultures and how, at the same time, both of these activities are ultimately lonely ones that should be used as bridges and not simple, unguided catch-all solutions.

What Reading Slowly Taught Me About Writing by Jacqueline Woodson

Author of Red at The Bone, Jacqueline Woodson has always loved reading very slowly. She runs her finger through the page, even as she was taught not to do so in school. Woodson has always wanted to savor books for as long as possible. In this talk, she demonstrates how, even has many people will tell you the contrary, reading slow has been extremely beneficial to her career as a writer. A skill that has helped her find her voice in lyrical prose that demands attention and thrives in the hands of patient readers.

My Year of Reading Books from Every Country in The World by Ann Morgan.

Morgan realized one year that her bookshelf had a massive gap: American or British authors wrote most of the books she owned. Having considered herself a well-read person, Morgan was shocked, and so she embarked on a challenge to rectify this gap. She decided that during an entire year, she would read one book by an author from each country in the world. In this talk, she chronicles her reading journey and advice other readers on how to take on the challenge as well.

Old Books Reborn as Art by Brian Dettmer

Let me start by saying that if you are a faint of heart bookish worm and don’t like seeing books cut up and reshaped, this might not be for you. Dettmer is a sculptor and visual artist who uses as his primary material books. Dettmer explains his process and journey as a reader and artist, and why he loves repurposing books he has loved and giving them another artistic dimension.