Five books to read while you are saving the world by staying at home

Let’s face it! Life is not easy for any of us right now. A deadly virus has brought the world into its knees and human beings (whose survival has prominently based on social interactions) are forced to isolate themselves. In a highly connected globe, where ‘socializing’ has been given new definitions social distancing is not easy at all.

But like every dark cloud has a silver line, social distancing has its own benefits. People are beginning to readopt the old fashion habits in new ways. Think of this time as a blessing in disguise to do that one thing you always wanted to do but never had the time. And I am sure one of the most popular ‘things’ among those was reading books. How many times have you promised yourself that you will read that book you bought but never did because ‘life’ kept you busy. When was the last time you opened a book and actually read it through all the pages without drifting away in the middle of a sentence? (Probably your High School English Class?). Well, now it is your time! In fact, isn’t it the best way to escape the grim realities around you by letting yourself sink in an alternate reality?

I have selected a few books which in my opinion would help you to turn that sad loneliness into blissful solitude. I have seen many people recommending books about plagues, disasters or stories set in a dystopian context to read. But for me, despite the common desire to explore similar experiences, people could do without reliving the same bitter reality. In fact, it is meant to be an escape and not an extension of the suffering!

Having said that, here are the books of my personal choice to read while you are running away from the present world. Even if you are not an ardent book reader these books will help you to make a start.

1. The Book Thief

If you are looking for a book, which has a common theme but presented in the most unusual way this is your book. An international bestseller by Australian Novelist Markus Zusak, the book became a sensational movie. Set in1939 Nazi Germany, it tells the story of 12 years old, Leisel and her love for books.

So how is it different? The story is narrated by Death. You would not find the common scary Grim Reaper but a gentler, kinder death who is exhausted by the human atrocities. If that is not enough reason for you to start reading this book, the way Zausak uses words to highlight the importance of the most mundane things, you would question yourself what use you have made of words during your whole lifetime. They will just sink into you and camp there for a long time. The book will break your heart and mend it on the same page. It will convey to you the hollows and beauties of human existence. The book, without a doubt, is a striking page-turner and instant boredom killer.

2. All the Light We Cannot See

Yes, this is another World War Book. This Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction by Anthony Doerr is a blend of war, morality, emotions, and science. The story is set in Germany occupied France during the Second World War. It portrays the unusual journey of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths eventually cross by a most interesting turn of events.

What would you imagine if someone said war and radio transmissions? Morse Code, war news, signals, propaganda, anything familiar to warfare. Yes, the novel has all those things too. But it also explores how the radio connects the human experiences in a chaotic world (sounds familiar right?). The book is an excellent exploration of how our destinies are never a personal choice but an adaptation to the worlds around us. It voices the oneness in human experience, the shared humanity. So yeah, it would be a great book for you to contemplate on how humanity has survived many threats, challenges, and atrocities throughout history. It’s full of charming metaphors and rich imagery. The kind of book you do not want to end but cannot put down.

3. The Harry Potter Series

This might seem like a cliché choice. But isn’t it better to let yourself worried about a (mythical) magical world than the worse uncertainties surrounding us right now? I don’t think there is a single soul on earth who has not heard about Harry Potter. You must have at least watched the movies.

It has always been my ‘getaway’ book. Whenever I needed a break from reality, it is in J.K Rowling’s brilliant imagination I found refuge in. It is just not about, three teenage wizards rebelling against the evil. It is also about how love is the antidote for everything. It is about resilience, survival, and forgiveness. If you are someone who is looking for a book to rekindle your passion for reading, then Harry Potter is the best start. Rowling not only creates a whole other universe but also builds a reality within fantasy. The books can be enjoyed by a reader of any age category. If you start reading Book One you would not rest until you have read all seven. It is like you have been spell bounded by magic, both literally and figuratively.

4. Rebecca

You might have read (or watched) ‘The Gone Girl’, ‘The Girl on the Train’. Popular thriller sensations in our time. Then you have to get yourself familiarized with Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic Masterpiece ‘Rebecca’. I would call it the Mother of all Thrillers (just my personal opinion). The book is the daunting story about a young damsel in distress who gets married to a wealthy widower and finds herself haunted by the memories of her husband’s late first wife. The story is set in ‘Mandalay’, the Gothic Mansion where our Protagonist struggles to get herself adjusted amidst the haunting memories of the dead wife. The way Maurier keeps the reader captivated throughout the story is exceptional.

From page one, you will feel the resonance of the dead woman along with the protagonist. You will feel haunted, frustrated but nevertheless obsessed to discover more and more about this woman who seems to have left her legacy in everything and everyone around Mandalay. How the author has made a character who is not even present so powerful is fascinating. Hint: Rebecca Is not the name of the protagonist but the late éx wife. The novel ends with a plot twist that would make you go ‘What’ in block letters. So, why not try this haunting classic for a change instead of binge-watching thriller movies on Netflix while you have the chance.

Bonus: Once you have finished the book, go and watch Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary movie adaptation of the same. You will not be disappointed. In fact, you will feel the book from a different perspective.

5. Three Men in a Boat

Well, this is definitely not the best time of our lives. So you could do with a little bit of humour on your way right? This masterpiece by Jerome K. Jerome explores the story of three English men who take a journey along the Thames River, with a dog called Montmorency. According to the author, the book was initially meant to be a travel guide of England’s iconic river and not supposed to be something funny at all. Yet somehow it got funny (just like life itself).

It hilariously unravels the experiences of the three men (and the dog) in their journey and you will find yourself laughing at the fresh and witty humour Jerome has featured to describe the day to day peculiarities. It is an exaggeration of the human eccentricities (you will, at times, feel like you are really laughing at yourself ) and a brilliant social satire of 19th century Victorian England. Nevertheless, it is timeless and universal. It features, among many other, disasters to do with tow ropes, weather, smelly cheese, violence against a tin of pineapple, a drunken battle with aggressive swans and many more. Rather an odd combination right? Read the book and you will find how these have come to life in the most hilarious way. If nothing works for you, the book is also rich with historical details about cities, places, and sites.

This list is of course not a guide on the ‘best’ books you should start reading immediately and rather a list of personal favourites to escape from reality. So what else do YOU think should feature as ‘getaway’ books during a Pandemic? Please comment below!

A tree in the wind, the wind in a tree, all in me!

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