During the age of social distancing and the “six feet apart” rule’s descent on society, some people may find themselves struggling to fill spare time and distract themselves from their constantly changing circumstances.
Books can be a great way to relax and “escape,” even if only for a few hundred pages.
As I’ve been hunkered down in my small, quiet apartment in recent weeks, I’ve found that reading has once again topped my to-do list as I attempt to provide myself with a little normalcy and distraction.
As I find myself reading more, I have created a list of books that could be enjoyed while hunkering down at home.
This includes a few books that spotlight the gritty, dramatic aspects of a pandemic, and a handful of not-so-bleak books that I believe do an excellent job of offering hope and distraction, no matter the time.
My list begins with five enlightening and engaging titles that would be a welcome distraction for any reader.
“The Seventeen Second Miracle” by Jason F. Wright is a feel-good, emotional novel that delivers a much-needed reminder that good things can happen at any time, or for any reason.
The book follows Cole Connor, a high school teacher who each year gathers a group of select students to listen as he recounts a tragic story from his father’s past. His father, Rex, was deeply affected by the tragedy and dedicated the rest of his life to making sure people could learn from his story.
Cole has taken up the same job, and turns the story into a hands-on learning experience for his students.
Cole’s lessons change the participants’ perspectives on life and hardship. The story is achingly optimistic, honest and heartwarming. It is a perfect pick-me-up for troubling times.
“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar” is a nonfiction title on my pandemic reading list.
Written by former journalist and advice columnist Cheryl Strayed, the book is a collection of some notable inquiries Strayed received — and answered — during her time writing under the name “Dear Sugar” for an online publication called The Rumpus.
The letters run the gamut of problems: Heartache, addiction, family, grief, career problems and everyday annoyances are all answered with the same sincerity.
Strayed is unique in that she answers each letter with a strange concoction of tough love and sweet empathy. She offers up tidbits from her own difficult life, which makes the book read like a mix between a self-help guide and an unusual memoir.
For people who want to remember that life has many twists and turns, Strayed’s words will be a soothing comfort.
Humor is a good tool for getting through tough times, as demonstrated in Jerry Seinfeld’s book “Seinlanguage.”
“Seinlanguage” is a collection of Seinfeld’s standup acts that often appeared during the episodes of his well-known show, “Seinfeld.” The book is short and simple; readers won’t have to struggle to wrap their minds around a complicated plot.
Seinfeld’s charming way of turning mundane, everyday obstacles into fodder for a hilarious standup routine is well-suited for providing a much needed laugh.
Another short-and-sweet classic is Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
Wonderland is a strange place full of odd absurdities that entertain a young girl named Alice as she journeys through her new surroundings. Whimsical and charming, many readers will already be familiar with the story and may take comfort in reading something that doesn’t touch on the complicated issues facing the world right now.
Even though reading about grim situations like those featured in these science fiction titles seems counter-instinctive right now, these books can still be enjoyed due to their intricate plots and the unique styles of the authors.
“The Stand” by renowned author Stephen King was penned in 1978 and is at the top of my teetering pile of to-be-read books.
Depending on the edition, King’s sixth book weighs in between 800 and 1200 pages.
This hefty book is perfect for a hunker-down situation — readers will surely have to take time to chew through the thick volume.
According to King’s website, the plot of the book is that “one man escapes from a biological weapon facility after an accident, carrying with him the deadly virus known as Captain Tripps, a rapidly mutating flu that — in the ensuing weeks — wipes out most of the world's population.”
The drama that unfolds in the changed world is surely a great supplement for when Netflix has been exhausted.
For a uniquely Alaskan take on isolation, bestselling author Kristin Hannah’s latest book is a solid choice with a satisfying ending.
“The Great Alone” follows a young family as they uproot themselves from their Seattle lives and take up residence in the fictional town of Kaneq, Alaska.
The family is forced to confront dark truths and their own painful past as they struggle to make it through an unforgiving winter in their new Alaska home.
Hannah’s story is made complete by a robust and energetic setting and a keen knack for capturing the emotional depths of her characters. For a reader looking for an adventure story that blends family drama and a man-versus-nature theme, Hannah’s book is the way to go.
Readers who appreciate lyrical storytelling and heavy-handed horror will enjoy “Wilder Girls,” a debut novel published last year by Rory Power.
Power’s background is in prose fiction, and her unique style shines through the book.
The story takes place on an island off the coast of Maine that has been quarantined by the U.S. Navy.
The island is home only to a boarding school. The handful of staff and students have been exposed to an unexplained disease that leaves them physically altered, and often mentally changed.
“Wilder Girls” is a page-turner that is engrossing and hopeful, despite the dark subject matter.
The last recommendation on my list is Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
Shelley is believed to have penned what is hailed as one of the first pieces of science fiction while she was sheltering from some stormy weather at a small party.
The wild popularity of Shelley’s book serves as a reminder that good reads can happen while staying inside, while the intense writing style and thought-provoking subject matter will quickly absorb the reader.
While the coronavirus situation remains serious and disrupts everyday life, it is important to remember that we can find hope in the everyday moments — like enjoying a good book, no matter the subject.