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Reading List for Pandemic Times

2020 has been, without a doubt, the most unexpected and chaotic year that any of us have experienced- and we’re only halfway through. With the world descending into chaos, countries implementing lockdowns, you’re cooped up in your house all day long, with virtually nothing to do. It’s easy to open up the computer, go onto Netflix, and find a TV show to binge-watch for weeks before moving onto the next one. After all, what else are you supposed to do?

Well, for starters, you can read! It sounds like something your poor English teacher would say to a bunch of teenagers with social media addled brains (myself included). This list of books consists of some of my favourites, each of which contains their own unique world that you as readers can fully immerse yourselves in. So, sit down with a book and a cup of coffee, something to eat: and forget about everything and everyone around you, for just one moment.

1) Fight Club

We’ve all heard about the movie (Don’t talk about it though, remember the first rule)! But fight club makes for an equally fantastic novel as well. Written by Chuck Palahniuk, the book revolves around an unnamed male narrator suffering from insomnia, who comes into contact with a man named Tyler Durden, who conducts boxing matches in his basement with men, for ‘just as long as they have to.’ The world of fight club is very much a reflection of the real one, and Durden’s satirical sense of humour and witty writing will keep your eyes glued to the pages.

2) Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an enthralling book that is an absolute must-read. New York in the 1940s, Autumn, the mafia, millionaires, -what more could you possibly want? Written by Truman Capote, the story follows the young, sprightly Holly Golightly, the next-door neighbour to a young man who yearns to become an author. Holly is everything you could possibly imagine: fashionable, glamorous, funny, but also lonely, sad, and angry, which goes hand in hand with Capote’s beautiful writing style, and makes for a delightful novel to enjoy while curled up in your armchair.

3) Lincoln in the Bardo

February 1862: We are now placed amidst the civil war, where president Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year old son falls sick. Days later, he dies, leaving behind a broken Lincoln, a shadow of his former self, a man who returns to the crypt to hold his son’s body. Beautiful and strange, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo is captivating. However, I must warn you that it’s one of those books that you will hate or love: there is no in-between.

4) White Tiger

Aravind Adiga introduces us to Balram Halwai: A servant, a philosopher, a killer. The book takes on a first-person narrative, and Balram narrates the story of his success while offering us a broader perspective regarding the corrupt, depraved and contradictive contemporary India.

5) The Remains of the Day

Summer, 1956. We are with Stevens, the Butler of Darlington Hall, who takes it upon himself to travel throughout the West county. The novel explores Steven’s mystery-riddled past, as well as his present. The simple, honest character of Stevens, coupled with Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful writing, will most definitely reduce you to tears, but it is a book worth putting on your list.

6) The Bluest Eye

Imagine this: Post-depression 1940s Ohio, a world that seems so different, but is, unfortunately, intimately familiar. Toni Morrison presents us with Pauline, Sam, Pecola, and Cholly: a poverty-ridden, torn family of four. Eleven-year-old Pecola wishes for Blue eyes, which she equates with being beautiful, and beloved. Morrison delves deep into a past so painful yet important, in the form of a work of art that has been known to have changed the American Literary Landscape.

7) And then there were none

Agatha Christie is unmatched and defeated, and will always remain that way. Each novel is a puzzle, but ‘And there were none’ in particular will persuade you to whole-heartedly throw yourself into the mystery genre, if that is something you are currently opposed to. It is a timeless classic that revolves around the first ten: ten different guests, each with a terrible past, summoned to a private island, where they will be killed- one by one.

8) The Palace of Illusions

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni retells the story of the famous Mahabharat- except from the perspective of a woman. The Mahabarata is an inherent part of Indian culture, and its reimagination nothing short of fascinating.

9) A Place for Us

A Place for Us is a beautifully told story about an Indian-American Muslim family, two different cultures, two different identities. When they all arrive at Chicago for their eldest daughter’s wedding and encounter the youngest of the siblings, Amar, secrets are revealed, memories are uncovered, and faith and family are questioned. Fatima Farheen Mirza’s paints a powerful, heart-wrenching tale with unforgettable characters.

10) The God of Small Things

The God of Small things is a tragic, poignant novel that takes place in 1969, India. Almost 20 years after independence, but the country is still submerged in the caste system. The story follows the lives of the innocent twins Rahel and Esthappen, and their broken family. Arundhati Roy creates the perfect setting introducing the need for independence, that has a stunning prose and will almost make you feel as though you are experiencing a strange, yet beautifully vivid dream.

It’s hard to keep your head up and your hopes high when the world you know and love has become unfamiliar. These novels give you a chance to escape that world, and enter your own.

Discovered some new favourites this lockdown? Share them with us and let us know why you think that book is a must-read for all!



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