I love to read. Unfortunately, the pleasure and joy that was once associated with this favorite pastime has been sucked away by the last two years of university. Past me would probably punch-slap myself in the face (if that were a thing).
Sometimes, I even catch myself shuddering at the thought of having to pick up a book. It reminds me too much of the towering stacks in the library or the overly-priced textbooks that are used (if anything) twice a term.
However, quarantine has given me the most precious gift: the gift of time. Now, when I find myself staring at the wall or spiraling into a bout of anxiety and/or depression, I reach for a book on my desk. After all, what else is there to do during this pandemic?
Here are my top five favorites that have helped get me through self-isolation so far:
Cafe Europa by Slavenka Drakulic
To say that I was surprised by this book would be an understatement. From the title, I immediately assumed that I was about to immerse myself in a quick, light-heartened summer read. Oh man, was I ever wrong.
Cafe Europa is written by a Croatian writer who expresses her exhaustion and frustration for having to deal with the current tensions that fragment Western and Eastern Europe. With the retreat of socialism and the fall of the Iron Curtain, true liberation has not yet been achieved in day-to-day life.
Europe has another meaning for me. Every time I mention that word, I see the Bosnian family in front of me, living far away from whatever they call home and eating their own wonderful food because that’s all that is left for them. The fact remains that after fifty years, it was possible to have another war in Europe; that it was possible to change borders; that genocide is still possible even today.Slavenka Drakulic
As a North American myself, I was surprised by the political and social problems that were still faced by most Eastern European countries. It had never crossed my mind or made apparent to me in school.
The only downfall to this novel is that it gave me the travel bug. It has always been on my bucket list to travel to the Balkans. I believe that this read has just justified the need to do so.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Okay, not going to lie here. I was a bit confused by this book at first. There seemed to be a lot of information that the author kept on withholding. It wasn’t until 100 pages in that I finally realized that this was a dystopian science fiction.
Nevertheless, if you enjoy reading books about potential alternate realities or society in the future, you might enjoy this one.
Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly
So far, my favorite book that I have read in quarantine! Set in Burma in 1996, Karen Connelly visits this Southeast Asian country to gather information for her article on the brutal military dictatorship and growing resistance.
A mix between adventure and romance, this novel will make you want to visit Burma. It is beautifully written and paints each scene beautifully.
Why a monk? How can he wear orange and breathe slowly all the time. Sometimes I’m convinced the human race as a whole is pathetic in it stupidity, but I’m beginning to understand why we’ve survived this long. We have the remarkable ability to get something out of nothing, explanations out of mystery, truth out of air. The great religions and causes are the best magic tricks in history, conjuring neither pigeons nor rabbits.Karen Connelly
The Great Passage by Shion Miura
This book probably ties for first with Burmese Lessons. Translated from Japanese, this novel tells a story of love, friendship and the power that words have in our society.
Kohei Araki, the protagonist of this novel, has devoted his life to building a coherent and well-written dictionary. His love and passion for words is contagious (it even helped me gain a new appreciation for the field of etymology).
With a team of scribes to help him begin this endeavor, he spends the next few years of his life building the world’s greatest dictionary: The Great Passage.
A quick and easy read, this book is a great way to stay preoccupied during quarantine!
Did you like this post? Check out my article 5 Tips for Learning a New Language.