I can't really pinpoint at what stage did I start to rely on books to escape or to seek an emotion I couldn't find in real life, but I've been doing it ever since I can remember. When school got boring, I had The Faraway Tree for adventures. When I needed a hero, I found comfort in Atticus Fitch from To Kill a Mockingbird, and so far they've never let me down.
When in March the world as we knew it ceased to exist, I knew that I needed to read if I was to retain any sanity. So I turned to books for solace and for some wisdom. These gave me perspective and added some joy to my bleak days, and I hope they do the same for you.
You could actually just pick up any of their books for a blissful few hours of escape, but Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating would be my recommendation. This book is like the winter sun, it's going to make you feel all aglow and snuggly and content. Josh and Hazel are both unforgettable characters, but its Hazel who has my heart. After all who hasn't felt that they are constantly lacking or are in fact too much for anyone to handle at one point of time or the other. But the quiet dignity and the wholeheartnedness with which Hazel accepts herself is just beautiful. You should definitely get this one - right now!
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: This book can be read like a poetic guide to emotions surfacing during the pandemic. Whatever it is you are feeling, whether it's uncertainity, collective grief, a feeling of distance from the people you love, loneliness or a need to reassure yourself, there's a poem for it in here. I particularly recommend " When Lilacs Last in The Dooryard Bloom'd", "O me, O life!" and "Song of Myself". For me, Whitman has always been about keeping the faith, but reading it this time made me realize how pragmatic and real his poems are. And isn't that just the silver lining? They're hopeful because they're real not despite or instead.
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: A memoir about the time he spent in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl talks about the importance of having a purpose in life, and how that gives us the will to carry on and changes the shape of our lives no matter how desolate our current times are.
This one is an essential read in any circumstance, but especially today. I've read this book multiple times, but reading it in today's context gave me the perspective I needed to approach this ongoing situation in the best possible way.
It made me realize how blessed we truly are, even in the worst of it. When you read about the cruelty and systematic oppression the Jews dealt with, you'll be grateful for being locked down safe and secure at home, and hopeful too. Our world has dealt with worse, and it's been fine before and it's going to be fine again. While Frankl is going to make you re-evaluate your life and ask yourself those important and uncomfortable questions, he also encourages you to take life day by day and not just concentrate on the bigger picture. After reading this I realized I can't be obsessed with what's going to happen after the pandemic or when things are normal again but instead I need to find a way to live through this period with some purpose.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life by Someone Who Has Been There by Cheryl Strayd: Read this one when you're feeling lonely, or like you're the only one who has to deal with life's blows and you need a pep talk. It will feel like a hug and a slap both at the same time, and both in the best way possible. A Compilation of letters sent to Dear Sugar, an agony aunt column written by Strayd; the writing in this is breathtakingly honest. While the message varies with each letter the underlying one is about getting over yourself, accepting yourself and reaching out to live life as wholeheartedly as you can by taking risks and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. In these uncertain times it's a good reminder of the courage and hope and love all of us are made up of. Life can be morbid and horrible but we can still find those tiny beautiful things. This book will remind you of that.
Flights by Olga Togarczuk: Just reading Flights is a very novel experience because of the way it's been written. Theres no plot, no thread which brings it all together. There are just snippets of some long and short stories, some of which are neither fiction nor not.
It might seem counterintuitive to read a book about movement and travel right now, but while it is about those things it's also about finding a home. The themes of the novel explore how we are all moving from one country to the other, from one relationship to the other and how to find stillness in this nomadic life. Which is why, I feel that in this time of uncertainity its such a great book to read. Not only is it going to take you around the world, from airport corridors to Paris to Warsaw, it's also going to teach you about what home really is!