Lockdown Reading List
Arts + Lit writers share their recommendations for the best books to get you through quarantine.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – Recommended by Nicola Chappel
A collection of both fiction and non-fiction musings, Keegan captivates the reader with the realities of our generation. Her raw and enthusiastic voice tells of hope, fear, love and uncertainty, all whilst beautifully capturing the never-ending possibilities of youth.
In the essay Even Artichokes Have Doubts, she reflects on the pressures of graduates to earn money in business rather than following their passions, arguing against the loss of individuality and desire. In another piece, Song for the Special, she expands upon the uniqueness of each generation: each one’s possibilities, its defining things, its sense of being special. She contemplates the nearness of success, yet the reality of the millions attempting to achieve it. Most notably, the title essay, The Opposite of Loneliness, captures Keegan’s pure emotion as a fresh graduate: her writing is bursting with hope and passion, yet uncertainty and anxiety.
In the current state of the world, it is an essay that arguably has more relevance than ever, particularly for those of us (myself included) who are about to graduate into the uncertainty that surrounds us at present. Importantly, it encapsulates the inevitable haziness and doubt that almost every new graduate contends with as they leave behind the security of university life.
Her raw and enthusiastic voice tells of hope, fear, love and uncertainty
With its striking sense of hope, this novel will inspire and uplift you, and, even in lockdown, it will leave you fearless and full of aspiration. Her writings are poignant, and often sad, generating a greater appreciation for life when read with the knowledge of her premature death from a car accident just five days after graduating. Mostly though, they are thought-provoking and sincere, leaving us with much to ponder upon. Particularly for the class of 2020, Keegan’s writing has never been more pertinent and necessary.
Fierce Fairytales: & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill – Recommended by Emily Pirie
For those of you who desire an escape from your mundane life in isolation, I firmly encourage you to order Nikita Gill’s Fierce Fairytales: & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul. This little book is a collection of traditional fairy tales with a twist. Instead of the classic reading of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Gill has created ‘Beauty and Bravery’ which discusses the pains of grief and what it is to be brave. Works like ‘Why Tinkerbell Quit Anger Management’ will make you both laugh, and realise the importance of not suppressing anger. In Tinkerbell’s words, “a woman’s anger can change the world”.
Gill’s collection is not only feminist but also a reflection on modern problems. ‘Lessons in Surviving Long-term Abuse’ reimagines Cinderella’s story as her battling with domestic abuse that is both thought provoking and tender. Similarly, ‘How to Save Yourself’ shows us that Rapunzel cannot be saved by anyone but herself. It inspires the reader to look after yourself before anyone else. In ‘Ode to the Catcaller Down the Street’ Gill captures the narrator’s passionate spirit as she exclaims:
“Come any closer and I will savage you, I am a woman, and I am made of lead and war and everything sour.”
Fierce Fairytales is perfect for flicking in and out of; this book promises to take you away into a land of fairy tales with a mystical twist.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Recommended by Ariane Joudrey
First published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, Little Women tells the story of a family of four daughters, a maid, a mother, and a father who is out at war. Overflowing with nostalgia, this book is full of mother-daughter lessons and how it feels to grow up. I’ve only recently read this (and still haven’t watch the new film!) and feel it would be a great book to read during lockdown. This book provides escapism into the daily joys and pains of Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy, so you can enjoy living in their lives, whilst escaping the anxiety of our own.
The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth – Recommended by Ariane Joudrey
Since we’re all locked in our houses for the foreseeable future, now is a great time to get stuck into a gripping series without any outside distractions.
The Divergent Series, set in a dystopian world, is a fantastic source of escapism, whilst also providing motivation and inspiration. The protagonist’s journey from living with her family to adjusting to her new, harsher life, all whilst trying to save the nation, is sure to provide you with a “go-get-it” attitude and feel like you too can conquer the world, and coronavirus.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker – Recommended by Ariane Joudrey
Providing a women’s narrative to the Trojan War, The Silence of the Girls is engaging, insightful and elegantly written to imagine what the war would have been like for the women, who are so often omitted from the mythos. If you are a fan of Greek mythology and feminist literature, this is a unique blend of both and is sure to capture your attention. Although The Silence of the Girls is something I would not have ordinarily chosen to read, it has been one of my favourites!
The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Recommended by Imogen Williams
Well, this certainly isn’t how I anticipated I would be spending the spring of 2020. Whilst these aren’t the circumstances under which I wish us all to be, life in isolation does offer us all a chance to slow down, and in many cases, tackle that huge ‘To Read’ pile.
I offer my two favourites of isolation so far: The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson, if you’re after a more topical read, or if you wish to entirely escape the present times, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Christie Watson, an NHS nurse for twenty years, reflects so poignantly on the varied highs and lows of life as a severely underpaid everyday hero. Taking us from training, through a variety of wards on achingly long shifts, Watson celebrates the love and kindness of the remarkable people who give their lives to saving us, without hiding the pain, fear and utter tragedy of life in a hospital.
… a vital and potent read
The Sunday Times bestseller and praised by Adam Kay, author of This Is Going To Hurt, this book is, now more than ever, a vital and potent read. If you’re feeling inundated with medical news, then I greatly recommend Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. Transporting you between Nigeria and America, Adichie beautifully illustrates a tale of such a deep but struggling love between a young, intelligent couple. Perceptively she explores race and identity, never giving answers, simply posing questions and opening up thought. Interlaced with themes of gender roles, friendship and family, it is a delicate novel yet not afraid to push boundaries. It is a truly impressive and delightful read.