T he coronavirus pandemic, the likes of which has not been seen since the Spanish flu of 1918, has swept rapidly across the globe, forcing humans to self-isolate and socially distance. Around the world, people are stuck at home. With no idea how long this might go on for, it's easy to feel panicked and claustrophobic.
Fortunately, spring has sprung, and the outdoors awaits. But if you're feeling lonely, a good book can help. Books connect humanity profoundly. Characters become our best companions. Authors become our healing gurus. Other people's lives make ours look not so bad after all.
In celebration of books, here is some reading material to get you started and to help with your quarantine needs.
Books to keep you calm
"Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life"
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen master and spiritual leader Hanh offers us tools for staying calm under pressure. Even the most mundane things like walking, traffic lights and dirty dishes are opportunities to ground and return to the present moment, which is exactly what we need right now, as worrying about the future will only make us feel crazy. This book also teaches breathing techniques that will increase feelings of well-being. Breathing in, may I be at peace. Breathing out, I smile.
"When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times"
by Pema Chödrön
It feels like the end of the world, we have no idea when the pandemic is going to end, and we have no control. Use Chödrön's Buddhist teachings to make peace within yourself because the only thing we can control is our reactions. She suggests leaning into the difficult feelings instead of trying to avoid them by bingeing on Netflix and chocolate. Definitely not easy but can be truly transformative.
Books for cabin fever
"Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail"
by Cheryl Strayed
Imagine yourself dealing with all your grief and fears alongside Cheryl Strayed as she traverses over a 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail completely alone with no idea what the heck she is doing. Filled with moments of pure sorrow and ultimate joy, this memoir will take you through all the sensations while letting you imagine yourself far from your living room couch. When you're done, you can watch the movie and see how it compares.
"The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit"
by Michael Finkel
You think you're feeling isolated? Christopher Knight lived alone in the woods without speaking one word to anyone for 30 years. He is believed to be the one person who historically stayed a hermit for the longest. That is, until he is busted by the cops. Oh yeah, Knight robs from his neighbors for years for supplies. Author Michael Finkel gets into the history of hermits, as well as the psychology. A timely read for those of us feeling like hermits.
Books for those who want a thrill
by Emily St. John Mandel
In "Station Eleven," the Georgia flu becomes airborne and within months, all airplanes are grounded, cars run out of gas and electricity blinks off as most of the world's population dies. Sounds like the future we currently dread and don't want to consider. What makes this book unique from others in the dystopic genre is that the protagonist survivors are artists. Readers travel with a group of Shakespearean performers as they visit the postpandemic populace surviving in a string of outposts scattered across North America. Surprisingly not scary or depressing but will definitely get you thinking.
by Colson Whitehead
This literary horror tale is also about an apocalyptic pandemic, but Colson Whitehead takes it to next level - freaky when the virus turns the infected into zombies. So even if you're not infected, well, you're doomed anyway, having to escape rabid flesh-eating undead. Taking place after the plague in a reclaimed section of Lower Manhattan, "Zone One" is filled with all the intellectual tension one might expect when suffering from "post-apocalyptic stress disorder (PASD)."
Books to combat boredom
"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing"
by Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo invented her specialized art of tidying up that she calls KonMari. It is not a simple task and requires a lot of hours and determination, but what better time to do it than while you're in quarantine. Stuck inside for weeks, take this opportunity to start clearing out things that no longer bring you joy. Surrounding yourself with only things that make you happy, neatly organized and easily accessible, might bring a little more delight to your housebound state.
"The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity"
by Julia Cameron
Artist's thrive on solitude and quiet time, so why not take advantage of your solitary confinement and get creative? This classic book helps everybody, artists or not, let go of inhibiting subconscious beliefs and spiritually align with their creativity. It includes lots of weekly and daily activities to keep you busy. You might have to get creative about how to go on "artist dates," discovering outdoor art instead of indoor museums.
Books to cheer you up
"Crazy Rich Asians"
by Kevin Kwan
The title makes this book sound like pure fluff and with all the hype around it, you might think there is no way it could be that good, but it is. Readers are given an inside look at the culture of crazy rich Chinese living in Singapore. Crazy is a great double-entendre here. They are so ridiculously rich that it is crazy. And, they are also kind of crazy. The culture is ostentatiously materialistic. People are so far removed from reality, it's hilarious.
"Me Talk Pretty One Day"
by David Sedaris
Any of David Sedaris' books are great for laughing uproariously. His satirical humor is self-deprecating, making it feel all the more real and relatable. This collection of essays, which won multiple awards, revolves around his move to Paris from New York with his boyfriend. My favorite pieces are about his large dysfunctional family, including his famous sister Amy Sedaris. For extra laughs, listen to the author narration on audiobook.
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Thankfully, during this digital age, books are available online. You can get e-books and audio for free 24/7 by downloading the library app, OverDrive. (The pin is the last four digits of your card number.) If you don't have a card, email the library and they will issue you a provisional card for full access to their digital collection.