As we barrel through another week of remote work, layoffs, social isolation, and a purporting feeling of wandering into the unfamiliar, books prove to be an exceedingly pleasant respite from the dizzying and disheartening news cycle. COVID-19 continues its steady spread across the globe, with confirmed cases and deaths in new cities each day and the ever so shortage of hand sanitizers looming, one might find it inadvisable to dig into a few hundred fictional pages on the very horror we’re experiencing.
Many people are using the current lockdown situation to curl up on the sofa at home, or in gardens while it’s sunny, and lose themselves in fiction.
Online book sales have rapidly increased. Waterstones reported a 400 percent raise at the end of March, as readers discover they have more time on their hands to finally get through their “to read” list. And book clubs have transformed into online reading groups, with readers discussing novels on Zoom instead of face-to-face.
But while publishers around the world have reported a surge in sales of titles like Albert Camus’s The Plague and Stephen King’s The Stand, many of us are choosing to immerse ourselves in feel-good, comforting fiction that reminds us of happier times.
I’ve picked some of the most uplifting and heart-warming books, from the story of a grandma and granddaughter who come up with an insane life-saving scheme to the tale of a teenage amputee who sets itself five challenges in life – from courageous public transit to learning to dance again.
My choices are solely judged on their originality, readability, and how they reminded us that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Six books and six moods for this world book day recommendation. Some of the books are not that upbeat all the way through, but reading them definitely shall help lift your spirits.
1.For the Vampiric thriller:
The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
When a plane lands at John F. Kennedy Airport shuttling in the nearly dead carriers of a vampire virus, it’s Ephraim Goodweather of the Centers for Disease Control to the rescue! However, the vampires—less Transylvania and more Walking Dead—are not keen to behave in ways conducive to the scientific method.
2. For Alternate realistic:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Ursula Todd dies all kinds of untimely deaths in Kate Atkinson’s innovative Life After Life, which imagines numerous paths for the protagonist. Four of her demises are from the Spanish flu of 1918, which comes for eight-year-old Ursula again and again until, triumphantly (and with a little help from her so-called deja vu), she outsmarts it.
3. For the extraterrestrial enthusiast:
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Published just two months before man first stepped foot on the moon, Michael Crichton’s 1969 thriller finds the world in unearthly crisis: an unmanned spaceship has made a successful terrestrial landing in Piedmont, Arizona, only to unleash a deadly microorganism that leaves everyone in the area dead, save for a baby and an old Sterno addict. Crichton, a Harvard med student at the time of writing, revels in the scientific and political implications of such an outbreak, and the conclusion of the central mystery—why the old man and the baby, seemingly opposites, survived the outbreak—is one of those taut, satisfying aha! moments that Hollywood lives for (and pays for—including a quarter of a million dollars to Crichton for the movie rights).
4. For the Moral Philosopher:
The Plague by Albert Camus
It isn’t a canary in a coal mine but thousands of dead rats in the streets of the French Algerian town of Oran that signal the torments to come in Albert Camus’ 1947 classic, The Plague, a humanist allegory for the trapped desolation of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the alternate cowardice and bravery in the face of a rampant death machine.
5. For the tender-hearted:
Nemesis by Philip Roth
Like Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Philip Roth’s heart-wrenching story of a polio outbreak in 1944 Newark, New Jersey, unfurls against the backdrop of a world war. Because of poor eyesight, 23-year-old Bucky Cantor is spared the horror of fighting in World War II; his position as a summer playground supervisor seems like a lucky break until his community is hit with an outbreak of the paralyzing disease that spreads among the neighborhood kids. In typical Roth fashion, there is more than a whiff of Greek tragedy infusing the narrative—and the portrait of New Jersey parents mourning their dead children is a poignant display of a specific sorrow invoking a universal one.
6. For the apocalyptic romantic:
The Last Man by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley wasn’t yet 30 years old when she published The Last Man, a futuristic science fiction inspired heavily by tragic events in her own life: the loss of three of her four children (one in infancy, and two while traveling in Italy, of dysentery and malaria) and then her husband (by shipwreck). Over the course of the novel, which takes place between the 2070s and 2100, political turbulence in Europe gives way to a sweeping plague, doomsday cults, and the eventual deaths (by sickness or drowning) of all but one of the main characters—one might read this last man, Lionel, as Shelley herself, and some of the others as stand-ins for her husband and their friend Lord Byron. The book skews more meditative than violent, and in the profound sadness of Lionel’s loss is the understanding that it is all the more tragic because the beauty of the world, his friends and life and loves, had been so vast—there is so much to miss.
Fun fact: I will not earn anything through these amazon retail links. You might just end up readings some good books to cherish and recommend further.
Note for children: Turning the envelope over, his hand trembling, Harry saw a purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake surrounding a large letter ‘H’. My top recommendation for you is to get a hold on to the Harry Potter Series JK Rowling.
Stay Home, Stay Safe.
Happy Reading, readers! ❤
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