Unprecedented times. That’s what we are living in. Hunkered down in our homes if we can afford the luxury of isolation/distancing, keeping our children close, we need solitary and distracting activities in order to not kill each other while this wave of illness has a chance to play out and die on its own. Hopefully not overwhelming our resources and really making it feel like the end of the world in the process.
I have always thought of reading as the ultimate boredom survival tool. Even as my own brain has chosen different ways to read while I keep my hands busy, I can travel to places in books at any time, no matter where I am. So even though I am reading through some of my YA to help with my writing goals I have decided on a special edition post of the reads I recommend to anyone trying to survive something immobilizing for indeterminate periods of time.
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
I read this years ago, like college age, at the behest of my mother, who always at the time knew the hottest books going. I think this skill was partly due to her following Oprah’s book club. It tells the story of Dinah, a minor character in the book of Genesis, and the world of women in the Biblical time in history. We women have always been survivors and do best sticking together no matter what, even in our world of men, and this book reminds us of that. This book stays with me and is always one of the first titles that falls from my mouth when people want book recommendations.
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
This one is less of a sweeping success than The Red Tent. It is less universally appealing, and I will start with that. This is set in 1866 New Zealand, and a single man arrives seeking his fortune and instead gets wrapped up in a mystery involving a treasure, an attempted suicide, and a missing man. Now, I am not going to pretend that I caught everything in this 848 page doorstop, but I found myself taken along for the ride in these interwoven tales of people living on the edge of the known world. Allegedly this is a funny satire but I don’t think I have enough context to have found it funny. I reviewed it years back from being a snow read that had always intrigued me but I had been intimidated to try. I would recommend you at least try to get into it, see where it takes you. You have time, right?
Sarah Addison Allen
I am just popping this author up there to recommend something lighter to read but still completely magical. I have read almost everything she has done, and I have reviewed her on here not too long ago. These stories are magical realist tales of people’s lives and fates. Finding love. Living in every day worlds of magical happenings. I ate her books like candy. I didn’t have to work for it, and after recommending a book where you generally do gotta work for it, at least a little, I felt I needed to have something listed here that is more instant gratification but you still could respect yourself. Although self respect is overrated, especially when it comes to survival reading.
All Souls Trilogy, Deborah Harkness
So if you really think you’re going to need to occupy lots of time, and you like magic, paranormal creatures, and historical fiction, and you want to work for it, this one is worth a whirl. It tops out just under 1700 pages. It’s a transporting time eater. And now that all three are out, you can read them back to back instead of forgetting plot points before the next one comes out, like I did. So complex. So many interesting times in history discussed and shown. So worth it to spend time in this world instead of ours.
I am hopeful these crazy times will pass soon. I am hopeful that together we will flatten the curve and contain this as much as possible. I live in New York, so there is a lot going on up here with the virus, and I work in healthcare so I am sitting in on daily meetings and might end up having to help out in other departments. But until then there are always books. There will always be books.