One thing the lockdown has given us (and it has not given us a lot), is spare time.
Spare time that it’s up to us to fill ourselves, without the help of all those normal things like bars and pubs.
Some of us might be returning to our roots then and doing those traditional things, like reading.
(Or you might just be spending your whole day scrolling through social media, which is fair).
Anyway, if you do fancy using that spare time to catch up on this age old pastime, here’s some books that I always find myself returning to.
1. L’Étranger (The Stranger/The Outsider) – Albert Camus
2. The Beach – Alex Garland
3. Dark Matter – Michelle Paver
A life-long favourite book, from a life-long favourite author of mine.
A group of young men undertake an expedition to the arctic, but misfortune appears to cloud their undertaking, as a series of events dwindle the group down to one. Alone in their base camp, Jack Miller has to endure a never-ending darkness, the solitude of the arctic, and if that wasn’t enough, a possible ghost.
What seems to be a Boy’s Own adventure tale, descends into a horror, at the hands of Paver, who has been dubbed ‘The Mistress of Suspense’ by The Times.
Certainly, for a few hours, going outside will be the least of your worries.
4. Harmonic Feedback – Tara Kelly
Moving away from ghosts, and towards teenage drama, Harmonic Feedback is more of a ‘bildungsroman’ of sorts.
But let’s step away from all the typical-teen-girl with typical-teen-problem books that you probably read while growing up (you know, the ‘Confessions of Georgia Nicholson’ and that sort of thing). After all, the protagonist, Drea, “doesn’t have friends. She has, as she’s often reminded, issues”.
Starting a new life in a new town, sixteen-year-old Drea, who is obsessed with music and sound design, finally finds herself in a comfortable friendship with two local teens. Who, for the first time in Drea’s life, actually seem to like her.
As with most novels that follow the life of a teenage girl, there’s a heavy dose of drama, but ultimately, unlike other novels, it’s not ridiculously cringey, unrealistic, and (on rereads of these books as someone who is no longer a teen) straight-up problematic.
5. The Collector – John Fowles
A novel in two parts, the first from the perspective of Frederick Clegg, a lonely young man who kidnaps an art student that he is obsessed with, the second from the perspective of Miranda, the art student that Frederick kidnapped.
For any lovers of the multitude of crime-based TV series out there, this novel would present an interesting read if one fancies breaking up the endless true-crime documentaries with a fictional-crime read, especially with the first-person narrative of Frederick in the first part of the novel.
So there we have some suggestions for anyone who fancies losing themselves in a book for a couple of hours, instead of watching the same news on repeat or endless social media scrolling.
As for me, if I get round to it, I’ll be picking up La Peste (The Plague) by Albert Camus (in both French and English, I find that reading one chapter in French, followed by the same chapter in English, leads to the most satisfying read), as I have attempted to do so, but never had the time to finish. Or The Magus by John Fowles which was an aeroplane read that I didn’t finish and discarded on leaving the plane, as there were many more interesting things to explore.