The Coronavirus lockdown has brought in a lot of anxiety, dread, and fear for many of us, and staying home for days on end may be taking a toll for the worst. So it can be good to grab yourself a warm mug of hot chocolate, make your bed a reading shrine, and catch up on some worthwhile reads. Here’s a list of four incredible books to read during lockdown and bring back some meaning and perspective into your life.
The Moor’s Account – Laila Lalami
A 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist, this historical fiction novel recounts the Spanish conquest of the United States in the early 1500’s—not from the perspective of the victors—but from that of the U.S.’ first black explorer, a slave from Morocco, Mustafa al-Zamori, or Estabanico. The novel takes you on a journey of this conquest, how the Spanish crew of 600 men are defeated to a mere four, and how Estabanico makes sense of his own identity through the war. Lalami’s masterful storytelling will make you question the knowledge you gain through the often falsified discourse of victors as well as embrace alternative histories and viewpoints.
The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street is a 1984 novel structured as a series of vignettes written from the viewpoint of 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero, a 12-year-old Chicana girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Cordero’s innocence combined with her coming-of-age experiences are heartbreaking and charming all at once. Read this novel for themes of race, class, sexuality, identity, and gender and an understanding of the immigrant American experience.
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
This science fiction novel is written as a series of diary entries of Charlie Gordon, a sweeper with low IQ and a mental disability, who documents his experiences undergoing a brain operation that ends up turning him into a genius. Charlie’s operation mirrors that of a lab mouse, Algernon, whose intelligence deteriorates as the experiment progresses, raising the question of whether Charlie’s will too. Charlie’s heartwarming anecdotes and rising intelligence raises questions about the purpose of education, knowledge, and intellect, and whether they’re as important as this world paints them to be.
Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami
In typical Murakami fashion, with wry humour and incredible emotions, Men Without Women is a book that will make you think. Across seven short stories, Murakami details the lives of men who find themselves without women, and what that means for their lives. A book about mental health and loneliness overall, the emotional quotient in this one is high, so keep a box of Kleenex close.
Ifath Arwah studies MA Media in Development at SOAS.