Reading has been my self-care since I was a little girl. Sometime in March 2020, that self-care lost much of its effectiveness. I still read but my ability to retain much of what I read, or enjoy it, faded. I fell into re-reading my old favorites. I also found many of my usual podcast escapes stressed me out. So I began to look for something that reminded me that people weren’t, in fact, the worst.
Enter 99% Invisible, the podcast. I burned through episodes while doing housework, pacing through the rooms of my empty office, knitting and blowing bubbles in my backyard. On the days when my job felt extra impossible and the political atmosphere of my small town felt truly frightening, I listened to Roman Mars and his staff telling me how people work to make the world around us better for others in small and nearly invisible ways. In those long, low-grade terrifying days of the early pandemic, those podcasts were a small spot of peace and hope.
We’re in a different place these days, pandemic-wise, but reading hasn’t quite returned to the level of self-care it was for me in the before-times. The 99% Invisible City felt like a natural way to ease back into reading new books.
The 99% Invisible City is much like the 99% Invisible podcast, less of a story than a series of vignettes that can tell a specific story which reflects onto our larger surroundings. Many of the book vignettes are familiar from listening to the podcast, which lends itself to hearing them read in Roman’s voice.
Reading The 99% Invisible City made me miss travel and museums and, to a lesser extent, other people. It hasn’t necessarily rekindled my reading self-care but it has reminded me that people aren’t all, in fact, the worst.