As the Covid-19 pandemic rages across the globe and more and more people are isolating or quarantining themselves, the question is being asked, “What on earth do I do cooped up for 14 days?”
The first two days might seem like a holiday. Sleeping in, bingeing Netflix, shuffling around in pyjamas (or out of them) and endless scrolling through coronavirus memes on Instagram. The recipe for a perfect weekend.
But it gets old. And then you hear how Newton invented calculus during and outbreak of the black plague while on quarantine. And how Shakespeare apparently wrote King Lear under similar circumstances.
And suddenly, wearing matching clothes for three consecutive days doesn’t seem like such a great achievement.
And that, my friend, is where reading books comes in.
There are a whole host of reasons to read books, but there are particular bonuses to reading during a quarantine:
- It passes the time. (Of course, TV does that too, but books somehow give you less guilt. I don’t know why.)
- No pseudo-intellectuals who disparage light reading that you will meet in your commute/workplace can give you a long look down their heavy glasses that hang of the edge of their nose and say, “hmm? You call that a book? I thought it was a rag with words on it.”
- Your Internet bill is spared.
- Taking hip Instagram photos of a good book and a drink looks sooooo much better than taking an Instagram photo of your coffee and your Netflix login page.
- Saying, “I read two/three/ten novels while in isolation” basically trumps anything your colleagues can say about their quarantines. (Unless, of course, someone really did invent another form of calculus. Or paint the next Mona Lisa. Or write the next Man Booker laureate.)
And of course, publishers, eager to help, have updated many classics with a modern, 2020 twist.
Here’s the catalogue.
Now, unless you’re an insane speed reader, this collection of books will last you far longer than two weeks of quarantine, so to help you narrow down your selection, here’s a brief summary of each. (Full disclosure, I read maybe 0.85 of the 9 books above, so if my description is off, blame the Wikipedia summary.)
The modern take on Gabriel Garciá Marquez’s classic sees two lovers separated by social distancing and quarantine only to continue communicating via Zoom.
Hey look, another two lovers trying to survive a crisis—originally World War I, but now it’s coronavirus. I drew the comic without realising what a depression saga this novel was—the name Hemingway should’ve tipped me off—so unless you want to spend the rest of your quarantine in despair, read something else.
Several brave hobbits are entrusted to destroy the One Roll to prevent
Sauron panic buyers from getting their hands on it. Along the way even their own friends try to steal and use the One Roll. It seems there really is a toilet paper shortage going on.
A man in quarantine for many years emerges, and, bearing a striking resemblance to a certain French minister, causes havoc among the circles of the rich and powerful. Hilarity ensues.
Much like these days, the moral of the story is that meeting lots of new people is kind of pointless, because it’s your oldest friends that really matter. Quarantine yourselves, my friends. New people in big hoards are scary.
When borders shut due to an invisible virus, anarchy ensues and people fight to control the world’s most precious chemical—hand sanitiser.
In this extended essay, Virginia Woolf explains why, in the modern era when most authors do their best work in hipster coffeeshops rather than their own rooms, it is important for women writers to at least have an Internet connection and a Zoom account, from which you can either get an education, or give one. Or have a corporate board meeting, who knows.
Due to the quarantine being too long by an overprotective country, the modern version of this 400+ page tome is shorter than this sentence.
In an attempt to sneak out and not have a criminal record for breaking quarantine orders, Viola dresses herself up as a dude called Cesario and goes out to party. Problems ensue.
So before your brain begins leaking out of your ears from too much screen time or Netflix, go out and get these books and go read them.
Actually, wait. Don’t go out. Get the books safely online. You might not like to read digital but intellectual discomfort takes second place to physical well being.
So stay well, stay inside, and get reading.