In the midst of quarantine and yet another national lockdown, people have found different ways to entertain themselves and make the most of the involuntary surplus of time on our hands. While it’s easy to lose yourself in that new Netflix show or broadening your horizons in the culinary world, I have personally found myself returning to my former love of reading. Below I have compiled a shortlist of some of the most enjoyable titles that have kept me going this past year, either allowing me to get lost in a different world or reflecting and coming to terms with what is happening in this bizarre time.
The books I am about to mention are not what you would refer to as “new releases” , however, I wholeheartedly believe that they are worth giving a read, no matter your age or usual preferences. I invite you to take this list into consideration or to simply judge my choices, it’s up to you!
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990) by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Some of you may already be recognising the title of this book thanks to the recent 6 part Amazon Prime mini-series of the same name released in 2019. While the television adaptation is one of the best that I’ve ever watched with an incredibly faithful and imaginative re-telling of this story, I am here to discuss the book. Written by two English authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, the story entails the collaborative effort between a devil and an angel to stop the ineffable apocalypse set in motion by their respective sides. Is it obvious yet why I chose this particular book? Good Omens is a brilliantly written comedy that makes the prospect of the apocalypse feel just a little too believable. The eccentric characters are written perfectly in which the demon has an ethical conscience and the angel constantly tries to trick his way out of every inconvenience. Add to that some sly doses of social commentary disguised as the four horsemen of the apocalypse and you get a fully immersive experience of how the end of the world would go down in our modern times. Besides, living through the pandemic has in numerous times felt like the beginning of the apocalypse, hasn’t it?
1984 (1949) by George Orwell
It would have been impossible for me to write this list without including an entry by my favourite author of all time. George Orwell is responsible for the school reading list favourite Animal Farm which many may be familiar with as making an appearance in their English GCSE papers. While Animal Farm is my personal favourite, this year I finally decided to read his second-most acclaimed work, 1984. The story takes place in 1984 as imagined by the author who wrote it 35 years prior to the date. In this instance, 1984 is a dystopian future where the omniscient Big Brother controls the lives of each citizen through large screens and obedient followers. While it is a larger and more political debate as to the extent of how accurately Orwell depicts the future in which we are all currently living in, I simply want to outline the scope of the entertainment that I received when reading this book. Orwell maintains his key trademark of being able to write about any topic and making you feel as if you are listening to a friend recount the events of his day. The book fails to come across as dated or irrelevant despite being the oldest entry on this list and never makes its reader feel uneducated or confused. Whether you choose to analyse the political commentary that plagued Orwell at the time that the book was written or simply want to enjoy a clever and thought-provoking sci-fi novel, this is the book for you! I could spend countless hours defending my opinions of this author but I will spare you my rambling and leave you with this: if your views on Orwell stem from the nightmares of over-analysing each word during your English lessons in secondary school, I urge you to give this book a chance on your own terms. I promise, it will be worth your while.
The Bunker Diary (2013) by Kevin Brooks
Another addition to the list by one of my favourite authors to date, The Bunker Diary is one that may feel counter-intuitive when reading during quarantine. Written from the perspective of a teenager that has been captured by a mysterious man, the book details his struggle with being locked up in an underground bunker. As new people join him, each sharing his disastrous fate, the book takes us on a journey in figuring out where they are, what they are there for and who put them there. Reading this book takes you inside the psyche of the prisoners, explicitly depicting their mental state and the claustrophobia that haunt them with each day that they spend in captivity. This is a relatively heavy topic that was not easy to read in a time in which many already feel the effects of prolonged isolation and it is the only entry on this list that I would only recommend if you feel that you are up for it. Nevertheless, the book is written beautifully, truly immersing you and making you feel like one of the characters with the mystery constantly building and new questions arising with each page, ultimately ending in a shocking yet satisfying ending. If this sounds a little too intense, I would heavily recommend Kevin Brook’s other works which may not hit quite as close to home as The Bunker Diary. Read with caution but I invite you for the ride.
Modern Architecture: A Critical History (1980) by Kenneth Frampton
Okay, I know this is weird but hear me out. This is a book that I genuinely read from cover to cover during this period and while it is a good book, it is not this exact book that I am promoting or recommending. As is often the truth, we are much less likely to do something when we have previously been told to do it by someone else. In this instance, I believe that this often applies to reading material set by University courses to help you to become more familiar with what you are studying or to develop a larger interest in said topic. My advice is, use this time to pick up a book that you would have otherwise shoved to the side or labeled as uninteresting. What is stopping you now? By all means continue to entertain yourself with new hobbies and take breaks from work, but why not take some time to brush up on some additional information so that you can dazzle your tutors with your newfound knowledge in the field that you are studying. I promise, it won’t hurt.
I hope that these titles peaked your interest or at least given you an inspiration for what you can do with your time now that we are still stuck inside. I invite you to not only read these particular entries but also to check out some of the other work by the authors mentioned.
By Bogna Bućko
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