To keep sanity, to relax and to fill in the void of time created suddenly by the quarantine we look for things to keep ourselves busy and happy. For readers, books are always a great diversion but with so many titles, genres, new and old books out there, the #toberead lists become longer, and choosing #nextread becomes harder. We all hesitate to commit to something that might not grab and keep our attention.
The dilemma of “too many books too little time to read” got me while drafting this post. Originally, I named the post “10 Books To Read During Quarantine” but as I browsed my library to put out the recommendations, the number exceeded pretty quickly, and it kept on changing. In the end I decided to not put a number in the heading, hence the title changed!!
My suggestions in the post come from my own collection of books that have given me hours of reading pleasure! As with anything else, what one might “like” to read is pretty relative. Many types of books can fit our moods – we may wanna read happy books to uplift us, meaningless ones to keep us busy without any demands, mysteries plots to keep us engaged, lesson-delivering books to improve ourselves, educate and reflect. Keeping that in mind, I thought I would list couple of books from different genres. I included the synopsis with the title for your review! Hopefully this list will help you decide which one to read when!
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Books take us to different places, introduce us to different cultures while we are reading on our couches, trains, planes and treadmills. International literature is a critical genre for today’s readers. My top pick for this is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani writer. My second choice is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and my third is another favorite writer, Khalid Hussaini’s “A Thousand Splendid Sun“. These are all amazing books with backdrop of war and migration and in many ways, relatable to our times of self-isolation.
My experience with contemporary fiction is pretty recent – mostly due to the book clubs that I am part of local and remote. I get to enjoy many titles that just come in the market, which otherwise I would have reservations about. I loved My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
Social realism, tragedy or the book counterpart of what we call “art cinema” are cerebral experiences and bring readers face to face with many uncomfortable aspects of lives. Under this category, the first name that comes is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The second choice is again Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke.
Whodunits/ Mystery/ Suspense:
Regency Crime is my favorite era preferably written by the old masters like Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyale and Georgette Heyer. You can pick any book form these writers and it will have its charm as long as you are in the mood to read mystery from that time period.
For Heyer, my favorite is Why Shoot A Butler. In contemporary mystery/ crime fiction, I recently found Ashley Weaver (Murder at the Brightwell is her debut) great at doing justice to the time-period and producing entertaining crimes. Another favorite title is The General’s Daughter by Nelson DeMille.
Biographies can be tricky to read, unless they are written in an entertaining way or convincing way. No one else can do the justice to reading his own biography as Trevor Noah did. I would strongly recommend listening to the book Born a Crime rather than reading it. I also enjoyed Daughter of The East by Benazir Bhutto, not with the entertaining bonus like Noah’s but still very engaging.
Immigration/ Assimilation Fiction:
As an immigrant in the US, this genre is very intriguing to me. I have read many books on these and here are my picks for y’all. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Many readers around the world have enjoyed these as well!
The magic about a well-written historical fiction is that it takes you to another time and place with your favorite characters. I have read some contemporary nice titles recently and I loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.
Many names come up under this category – two authors that I like are John Grisham and Richard North Patterson. I am suggesting The Chamber by John Grisham but really all his books are entertaining. Degree of Guilt by Patterson is a very engaging read.
In British classics when Jane Austen is mentioned the first thought goes to Pride and Prejudice. Although one of the best romances, I find the it a bit too loud and noisy. The calmness and relaxed setting of Sense and Sensibility, along with the mild twists in the story always leave calming impression on me. My other all-time favorite is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. In American classics, To Kill a Mockingbird ranks among one of the best books. Titles may overlap their categories; To Kill a Mockingbird and Great Expectations also fall Bildungsroman novels, thus great to read by adolescents and beyond.
Maeve Binchy is a much-loved author of warm, sensitive plots! She is my most favorite women fiction writer. An Irish lady, she is also known as “Jane Austen of Modern times”. She has beautiful work to her credit. Her stories mostly involve the Irish town and its inhabitants which occasionally appear in multiple of her novels. There is no series and you do not need to read these books in any particular order. I have found her books to be very good for teenage girls as well, there is so much wisdom, insight into the human mind and a lesson to learn. These two, Circle of Friends and Tara Road are my suggestions if you have not read her already.
And last but not least, beautiful messages in a time like this can mean so much to us. Both these books, The Essential Rumi and The Prophet are not something to read and put away. These should be sort of reference books, always on our shelves that we can read over and over again – to uplift, to heal and to connect with ourselves!
Well here it is – by no means a comprehensive list of good books to read; there are still many many that I am itching to add, but let this be a post for now! I am sure some books you might have read already but maybe they will kindle (pun intended!!) the nostalgic spark of reading them again. Some titles you might have thought of reading but never got to them, and some you may not have heard of. In any event, may your reading be full of joy! On a side note, if you are not a reader and still reading this post, I hope one of these books will make you a reader during and beyond quarantine!
Stay at home, stay healthy, start reading and keep reading!