So, you know how four years ago 2016 shaped up to be the year that would be the answer to many pub quiz questions in years to come? I.e. In what year…
- Trump’s America
- The Scottish Referendum
- [insert favourite celebrity name] died
Well, looks like 2020 is doing its best to eclipse all that! With a lockdown firmly in place now in the UK, I have spent the last couple of weeks adjusting to the new way of things. One thing I have realised about all this is how writing a book has prepared me for working from home.
About two years ago, I wrote on here about the need for discipline in creativity, and I am I not (or certainly wasn’t) very good at that. I am beginning to appreciate just how much I have learned through creative writing over the last couple of years since writing that post, as the discipline skills and routines developed for writing are what are keeping me sane right now.
Things like having a specific area in my flat for working/writing, having a routine that lets my brain know it is time to focus, making sure I am comfortable while I work, even having a specific playlist for working. All of this has made the transition to working from home a little smoother for me than I would have expected. Who knew that being an anti-social weirdo with an over-active imagination would come in so handy?!
But joking aside for a moment, I do hope everyone is keeping well and staving off cabin fever in whatever way you can. It’s easy to say we’re all in this together (please, don’t ANYONE break out into High School Musical!) but it can be tough to feel ‘together’ when we are confined to our homes and cut off (physically) from family, friends, and colleagues. Please don’t suffer in silence if you are struggling. We are doing this for our physical health, but that does not mean our mental health should take a back seat.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”
So, with that said, and if you’ve exhausted everything on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and whichever other streaming services you may subscribe to, a Lockdown Library may be perfect for you. How many times have you looked at your bookshelf and thought “If only I had the time…” Well, now you do! This could be the perfect opportunity for you to get stuck into a good book for a while and let it transport you somewhere entirely new, all from the comfort of your favourite armchair.
Here are a few suggestions for what your Lockdown Library could look like:
1: A series/book you love to read over and over again
Starting with the familiar is always a good way in to a reading spree. For me it would be The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I have made no secret on here of my love for this series; I mean, Cyberpunk Fairy Tales. What more could you ask for?! And the great thing about the series is that it is complete, so you don’t even have to wait around for the next instalment.
Or, staying with the theme of Marissa Meyer, if you’re just looking for one book to get stuck into, you should try Heartless – her stand-alone novel set in Wonderland and exploring the origins and backstory of the Queen of Hearts. I guarantee it will not be what you expect. And it will break your heart in the process.
2: A Classic
You know those books that everyone says they have read but actually haven’t, or they’ve only glanced at the Cliff/York Notes in order to pass an English exam? Why not take the plunge and actually read one of them? Voluntarily. I did that a little while ago with 1984 and The Picture of Dorian Grey and (for the most part) I was not disappointed.
3: Something really, really, REALLY long!
Could this be the time that you get around to reading War and Peace? Or A Song of Ice and Fire – finally see why everyone else was so upset with Game of Thrones. You could even make a game out of that one: place a bet on what will happen first:
- You finish the series
- The lockdown ends
- Or George R R Martin finishes the next book
4: Trade favourites with a fellow book lover
I did this a few years ago with my sister. She read Cinder (first of The Lunar Chronicles books, and she subsequently devoured the whole series). At the same time, I read I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. I don’t often read spy books, but this one blew me away. Plus, it’s a long book, so it fits the category above as well!
5: Something to compare with an adaptation
Amazon Prime are dining out on Neil Gaiman at the moment. Why not crack open a copy of American Gods or Good Omens and see how the adaptations stand up to the originals? Or, if Netflix is where you play, there’s always The Witcher books to keep you going until Season 2.
Or go with the classics, by which I mean Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or anything by Jane Austen.
If you’re feeling particularly theatrical, why note have a go at reading a Shakespeare play?
OK, that may be a step too far for some. But it raises a good point, why limit yourself to novels at this time?
6: Not a Novel
There was a time when novels were not the dominant form of writing. They were a new concept at one point (which, incidentally, is why they are called novels). So, get stuck into other forms of literature as well. Like short stories (she says, resisting the urge to point at the Short Stories section in the menu above!) or poetry. While clearing out your under-stairs cupboard for the eleventy-first time, maybe stop for a moment and have a look at that poetry anthology that has been gathering dust since you left high school. Read a few of the poems before the book gets tossed on to the pile of bric-a-brac headed for the charity shop.
I don’t know about you, but my bookshelves are littered with non-fiction books that I bought for research purposes but have never given my full attention to. Things that look really, really interesting, but again, who has the time? Things like:
- What Every Body is Saying (all about body language)
- This is Your Brain on Music (looking at what happens to your brain when you listen to music)
- The Code Book (all about code breaking, cyphers, and cryptography)
- Prisoners of Geography (about how drawing up country borders is not all it’s cracked up to be)
While you have little else to do, why not read something you can learn from at the same time?
I hope this gives you a starting point for your own Lockdown Library and reading list. And, of course, once you’ve read something, don’t just keep it to yourself. Start a conversation about it (even a virtual conversation at the moment is better than nothing). Feel free to pop back here and leave a comment with your recommendations, or head over the Good Reads and leave a review.
However you decide to fill your time during this period of uncertainty and unease, remember to stay connected with others by whatever means you can.