Ten Must Read Books in Corona Times

Here is an interesting mix of books that will keep you busy and inspired during the lockdown

By Prachi Raturi

THERE you are! Bored and exhausted?

As if the news of the rising Covid -19 cases was not depressing enough, there is the feeling of boredom and nothing to look forward to that is making the lockdown situation seem worse.

Interestingly, like most clouds this one has a silver lining too. It is the perfect time to introspect, to look within, learn a new skill and explore one’s creativity and start anew.

And while you are at it, why don’t you also review that New Year resolution to catch up on all the reading you have been promising yourself to do, but haven’t had the time for.

Here are a few reasons to get you started.

Now that cooking and cleaning and dusting, (of course, you are doing some of it, if not all!) and your computer are getting most of your attention, it is getting a bit monotonous, we know. 

Why, a book is the perfect escape into another world. Add to that, the charm of coming back inspired. For every book that you read is sure to add a dimension, however big or small to your life.

 So here is a list of 10 books, all from different genres that are sure to appeal to you.

What Ho!: The Best of Wodehouse

PG Wodehouse

There is nothing like too much of a good thing, is there, now?

Definitely not when you are talking of the one and only P G Wodehouse, often referred to as the best comic writer of all times. And what better time to read something witty and fun than  this when the world seems a drab. Go on, escape into a happier world.

This inimitable collection has been compiled with the help of PG Wodehouse societies around the world. Get ready for some fine, comic reading. Like Stephen Fry writes in the introduction: “Spread out, before you are the finest and funniest words from the finest and funniest writer the past century ever knew.”

To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee

Chances are that you have already read this classic but if you haven’t, this   one is one of those must reads.

Harper Lee’s 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird is brilliant in its depiction of the world and society as a child sees it.

Set in sleepy Southern town America, this deeply moving book takes you to the innate core of human emotions-innocence and kindness. Regarded as a masterpiece, this one was an instant bestseller and continues selling a million copies each year. It has also been made into an award winning movie, also considered a classic.

“To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos”, describes Amazon. Not to be missed!

The Fountainhead

Ayn Rand

If you don’t like to walk with the herd, this one is meant for you. A cult classic, The Fountainhead is all about Individual freedom and the fight for it, no matter how difficult that path seems. It’s no surprise, seventy seven years after it was launched; this one continues to fly off shelves and so far has sold over 6.5 million copies. 

The book is a man’s gritty journey about refusing to compromise on his art for the sake of “achievement”. Howard Roark is a talented architect who is bullish in his approach towards his work and life.

Love him or hate him but you can’t ignore Roark and his unique sensibilities. Read this one for its sheer power.

A sleeper hit, this one written by Rand during The World War II is her most popular work.

Post Office

Rabindra Nath Tagore

A simple tale of a child’s vivid imagination, this play, struck a chord with the world.

Polish author-educator Janusz  Korczak produced a version with children, Yeats produced the English staging and Andre Gide read it on Radio Paris the night before the city fell to the Germans.

Amal, a small boy, has an incurable disease and his physical world is confined to a room. But his mind isn’t confined to the room. His curiosity for the world outside his window, makes him reach out to all and many-the village pradhan, the milkman, other boys his age, a fakir, and a flower gatherer-the little Sudha. The news of an upcoming Dak Ghar (post office) fires his imagination and he starts imagining receiving a letter from the King to be his postman. A letter does arrive…. borne by the royal physician.

Read this beautiful play for its sheer simplicity and imagination.

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 

Haruki Murakami

If the Japanese genius has been on your list of must read authors, this one is a treat.

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle starts as a simple story of Toru Okada worried about his missing cat. Then we are led into his world of a slowly growing distant relationship with his wife. Add to that the twist of explicit phone calls.

Soon you are entwined in the all consuming, world of Okada with bizarre tales unfolding with each character who saunters in.

So the world as he knew it-spent listening to opera and jazz, reading, drinking beer and cooking is all a thing of the past.

An intriguing book with Murakami’s trademark style, this one is a delight.

The Kind Worth Killing 

 Peter Swanson

Sometimes thinking and overthinking take the joy out of most things.

How about a gripping, thrilling, unputdownable, book? Just what you need to take your mind off, all things mundane.

A psychological suspense, this one starts with two strangers, Ted Severson and a gorgeous Lily Kintner meeting at an airport. One too many Martinis are shared, as are several intimate secrets and a murderous plan.

What follows is an exciting tale with a superb twist. A sharp detective adds to the thrill of the chase. In fact, Entertainment Weekly went on to ask, “Is The Kind Worth Killing, the next Gone Girl?”

Being touted as the big new thriller writer, Swanson builds a tale that is sure to keep you on the edge.

THE Year of Living Danishly

Helen Russell

It is there, year after year.-Denmark- one of top three countries in the World Happiness Report. In fact, why limit to its happiness quotient to the list Denmark also gave a new world to the Oxford English dictionary. Hygge – (pronounced hoo-gah), loosely translated means warmth, coziness, comfort.

A feeling which is sure needed when we are all dealing with some much around us.

A much recommended book, My Year of Living Danishly was written after journalist Helen Russell moved to Denmark when her husband got a job there.

Practical, funny, straight, the book is this and more. How does a Londoner adjust in rural Jutland? What’s more to Denmark than long winters, pickled herring, lego and pastries?

A lot more, Russell finds out, and then doles out in her lovely yet non preachy book.  Just what you need in the lockdown to add some Hygge to your life!

Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars  

Francesca Wade

Extraordinary times and extraordinary people, sometimes make us delve deeper into ourselves, only to come out victorious and better prepared for life.

A group biography, this wonderfully written book, looks closely at the life of five artistic women – Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle, Dorothy Sayers, Jane Harrison, and Eileen Power.

The book which featured in Forbes list of suggestions for lockdown reading, looks at the lives of these amazing women between the two World Wars.

Wade explores the lives of these women all of who moved to London’s Mecklenburgh Square-the home to revolutionaries- to strife for individual freedom.

There is author and publisher, Virginia Woolf, modernist poet Hilda Doolittle, detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, economic historian Eileen Power and classicist Jane Harrison. Different lives, different hopes but one common love-a free life.

The Genius Life: Heal Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Become Extraordinary

Max Lugavere

Of course you have heard the bit about how to form or break a habit. Practice anything religiously for 21 days and lo and behold, you have a habit.

With so much happening around, sometimes self help books are such a go-to solution.

What makes this book particularly interesting is its holistic approach to well being. With 21 days of meal preparation tips, meal plans and workout plans, this one is loaded with practical information.

The idea is simple, The Genius Life  looks at giving you not just a fitter body but also a sharper, agile mind.

Amazon describes it like this: “Drawing on globe-spanning research into circadian biology, psychology, dementia prevention, cognitive optimization, and exercise physiology, the Genius Life shows how to integrate healthy choices in all aspects of our daily routines: eating, exercising, sleeping, detoxing, and more to create a healthy foundation for optimal cognitive health and performance.”

Five Steps to Happy’

Ella Dove

A powerful debut novel, which needs to be read for its feel good in the face of adversity.

Written by journalist Ella Dove, who became an amputee after a running accident in 2016, this one draws from her experience.

Five Steps to Happy takes us to the world of   struggling actress Heidi. If the struggle wasn’t enough to deal with, the actress in her early thirties has a life-changing accident. She can’t walk. This leads her to an amputee rehabilitation unit. It’s a new world, one that she struggles to deal with. But that is only till she meets a fellow patient, Maud. The old lady also has a handsome but quiet grandson, Jack.

Heidi starts relooking at her life. It might be different yes, over-No. And that is when Heidi decides on reinventing it. She wants to learn how to dance, to wear skinny jeans again, find the confidence to deal with public transport and more.

A book that leaves you with a smile and hope.

Take of Bill Gates 

Traditions are special. So when none other than, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates  follows his annual tradition of recommending his summer reading list, people sit up and notice.

 “Most of my conversations and meetings these days are about COVID-19 and how we can stem the tide,” Gates recently in a blog post. “But I’m also often asked about what I am reading and watching — either because people want to learn more about pandemics, or because they are looking for a distraction.”  

So here is another top up list besides the one we’ve already suggested.

The Choice

This one is about 16-year-old Edith Eva Eger’s tale of fighting Auschwitz and going on to become a therapist in the US. “Many people will find comfort right now from her suggestions on how to handle difficult situations,” wrote Gates.

Cloud Atlas 

This multiplot 2004 novel by David Mitchell has struck a chord with Gates, for sure. The acclaimed book features in his summer reading list. The intertwining six plots give an interesting, interactive treat to the reader. The American doctor on a sailing ship in the South Pacific in the mid-1800s is Gates’ favourite bit, he shared.

The Ride of a Lifetime

“One of the best business books I’ve read in years,” is how Gates describes Bob Iger’s memoir which talks of his days as CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

“The ideas in this book strike me as universal” Iger writes. “Not just to the aspiring CEOs of the world, but to anyone wanting to feel less fearful, more confidently themselves, as they navigate their professional and even personal lives.”

The Great Influenza

John M. Barry’s 2004 bestseller which deals with the influenza pandemic of 1918 is drawing attention of readers, yet again. The detailed research, the depth of perspective makes it an engaging read.

“A good reminder that we’re still dealing with many of the same challenges,” wrote Gates.

Good Economics for Hard Times

Written by Nobel winning MIT Professor couple, Esther Duflo and Abhijit V. Banerjee, this one is well recommended by Gates. Gates’ recommendation, draws attention to the book’ take on “inequality and political divisions by focusing on policy debates that are at the forefront in wealthy countries like the US.”

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