As we all cope with being cooped up at home more often than usual, people are offering more advice than usual on how to manage. From recipe tips to advice on how to keep your kids entertained when they can’t go on a playdate, there’s a lot of information out there.
One thing that’s been warming my heart is seeing all the ways people are banding together online to help each other pass the time while they’re at home. There’s the fitness trainer in Spain leading sessions from his rooftop for people to follow from their nearby windows and balconies. The TV and movie critics putting together lists of shows and movies to watch to keep you entertained (or comforted or scared, depending on your bent.)
As an avid reader, I wanted to put together a list of books you can read during this strange time. The list is a mix of comfort books, engrossing books, and outbreak-themed ones (I’m not sure why people would want to do that to themselves, but to each their own!)
1. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
One of THE original books to help people pass the time during a virus outbreak, The Decameron was Boccaccio’s attempt at distraction during the Black Plague of the 14th century. Instead of Netflixing-and-chilling, people often told stories. This book is a collection of stories told by a fictional group of quarantined Florentine nobles featuring funny and bawdy stories of the time.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
In this outbreak-themed story, Jane survives an epidemic at a girls’ boarding school that ends up shaping her entire life. What she witnessed and experienced changes her outlook on life and informs everything she does after that. Come for the gothic love story, stay for Brontë’s excellent writing.
3. Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara
Enjoy O’Hara’s optimistic view of life through his poems, and vicariously enjoy each full and vibrant experience as he describes them.
4. The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
Travel back in time to 14-century Italy just before the start of the Black Plague in The Scribe of Siena. A historical romance novel, Scribe weaves a gripping tale of love, loss, food, and passion as we follow the title character through her medieval adventures. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have added Siena to your travel list.
5. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
The Danish concept of hygge is a balm in today’s scary world. Defined as a “mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment,” hygge is the perfect encapsulation of all that brings you comfort. Who doesn’t want that right now? Share this book from the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute with your loved ones today.
6. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Exchange your quarantine for house arrest during the Russian Revolution with this book. Towles writes the story of a Russian aristocrat who is imprisoned in a declining hotel in Moscow for years as the world changes outside.
7. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
A creepy mystery novel centered around a serial killer who kidnaps and holds women hostage in his meticulously-tended garden. After being discovered, the FBI must investigate the man, the mansion, and the strange garden attached to it.
8. The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane
Enjoy a walking tour of places Macfarlane has walked through and follow along as he explains the history, stories, and adventures of the artists, explorers, and other people who have traveled and wandered the same paths. A great escape for a few hours.
9. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie
Dive into one of Christie’s lesser-known works where amateur occultists must investigate a murder in their midst. These travelers are snow-bound in the house, and when they discover a corpse, the investigation is on.
10. The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha
Read through the award-winning book that sprouted from the hit blog 1000awesomethings.com and celebrate the little things in life that can bring you joy.
11. Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami
First published in English in 1985, this book centers on the concept of nostalgia and cynicism. We follow the unnamed narrator as he describes his brief but intense obsession with pinball, his life as a freelance translator, and his efforts to reunite with a beloved pinball machine that he used to play.
12. Any Classic Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read
The final recommendation is to pull out any classic book you’ve always wanted to read. It could be Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Dune, Anna Karenina, or Machiavelli’s The Prince, War and Peace, or a business book to level up your professional skills. No matter what it is, pull it out and start reading.
While you’re at it, why not read the books out loud as a family? It’s something you can do together that doesn’t require physical closeness but still keeps you in touch with each other. You can even do it over a video chat with family and friends who are far away.