By Nisha Gill, Staff Writer
In light of the unprecedented challenges and changes that have come with the past few weeks, it has become even more important to take care of yourself and invest in coping mechanisms that help maintain your connection to others, while still practicing social distancing. What better way to do this than to have your nose in a book?
The world of books is boundless. There is something out there for everyone to read; the perfect book is waiting for you and all you have to do is hop on a stepping stool and grab it (or put it in your virtual cart). If you’re willing to invest some energy into flipping those pages, you could connect with books to help better understand the current pandemic, books to escape it as and books encouraging hope and self-reflection.
Listed below are a selection of books curated by Sil staff! These great books to enjoy on your own or through a virtual book club with family and friends via video-calling platforms such as Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or even Zoom. You can use Zoom to schedule regular calls with automatic reminders sent to your calendar, helping to keep your book club on track and add some routine to your weeks. Each book below has a link so you can order them directly to your home or to your e-reader to keep up with the practice of social distancing!
For those seeking an explanation for what’s going on in the world today:
The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garret
An older, but still very topical, book from 1995 that traces 50 years of the world’s battle with diseases such as HIV, Lassa and Ebola. Chapter 14, “Thirdworldization” has received praise and attention through reviews. Garret’s book could provide valuable insight into what people all around the world are experiencing today. This isn’t just a book about science and disease, it’s about the political, social and economic environments that contributed to and attempted to solve infectious diseases.
Recently released, this book is an excellent exploration of “the fragile wonder weapon” that is our extraordinary immune system. Richtel’s book intertwines an investigation and explanation of scientific discoveries with four personal narratives from patients suffering from autoimmune diseases. He has received praise from reviewers for his skills as a storyteller capable of creating a humane narrative from complicated scientific information.
21 Lessons For The 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
From the author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, this book has consistently received high reviews, particularly for its ability to provoke thoughtful reflection and discussion as well as Harari’s intelligent and empathetic portrayal of a variety of topics, including climate change, fake news and international terrorism. Though this book is not directly related to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it offers some much needed perspective as well as hope for the future.
For those eager for a break from the difficult-to-stomach headlines and the monotony of staying home:
Something for Everyone by Lisa Moore
Moore’s beautiful and unique collection of short stories explores “the timeless, the tragic and the miraculous [that is] hidden” in our everyday lives. While there is a focus on life in Newfoundland and Labrador, the raw detail and human touch that Moore’s writing brings out has led many readers to become engrossed in her fiction, regardless of whether they live in eastern Canada. This book was a part of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize long list; out of 104 books submitted by publishers across Canada, Moore’s title made the top 12.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Reading these with my brother right now and I would highly recommend them! A classic set of longer reads that is perfect for the next few weeks, these novels transport you to the mystical world of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, filled with magic, darkness and the most unlikely adventurers. Enjoy this? Check out the prequel, The Hobbit!
This Is How You Lose The Time Wars by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Newly released, this co-written novel has received incredibly high praise from early reviewers, and has been hailed as an “exquisitely crafted” blend of romance, science fiction and poetry. The novel details the dubious correspondence between two rival agents in a time war that spirals into something more, something that could change everything, both the past and future.
Binti Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
A ground-breaking science-fiction trilogy and winner of multiple awards, Okorafor’s trilogy follows Binti, a young Himba girl, who has been gifted with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As she embarks on her interstellar journey, Binti discovers that there is more going on than meets the eyes and must learn to navigate the legacy of war, difficult strangers and the power of knowledge.
For those in need of something in between an explanation and escape, something that can offer some hope and strength in these difficult times:
A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Another long read for these long weeks and a favourite of mine for difficult times, Dickens reminds us that the worst of times can also be the best of times. The novel follows a recently released political prisoner Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie and two men from dramatically different walks of life whose lives become unexpectedly intertwined with theirs.
A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles
A fitting tale for the times about a Count who has been confined to his hotel and his search for understanding and purpose during the unrest within Moscow in the 1930s. Beautifully written with an incredible cast of characters, Towles book melds history, romance and espionage to create a narrative that may be exactly what we need during these trying times.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thein
Internationally acclaimed and a winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Thein’s novel follows the characters of an extended family from Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China through to present-day Vancouver, where the fractured family’s story is slowly and lovingly pieced together by Marie, an endless curious mathematician. Powerful, emotional and daring in its scope, Thein’s novel has been lauded by critics as a “work of art”.
Faithful by Alice Hoffman
Detailing one girl’s journey to redefine herself after a tragic accident turns her life completely upside down, Hoffman’s novel has been praised for “spinning heartbreak into hope” through her excellent prose and cast of loveable and wonderfully flawed characters.
For those looking to learn more about individuals with some self-reflection:
A Work In Progress: A Memoir by Connor Franta
Venture through the life of YouTuber, Connor Franta as he details the many life lessons he has learned while growing up, intertwined with photography and poetry. A great, relatable read for anybody in their twenties.
Join the previous CEO of the Walt Disney Company as he documents his rise to leadership of the happiest place on Earth. Iger details the important life lessons that he’s learned from aspects of leadership, business and family while adding anecdotes about Disney’s history over the last 15 years.
Trust: Twenty Ways to Build a Better Country by David Johnston
Written by the former Governor General of Canada, David Johnston speaks to the lessons he has learned during his time in one of Canada’s highest positions within the Federal government. Johnston explores 20 different ways that he believes can cause Canadians to become more engaged within government, sprinkling anecdotes throughout. To learn more about this book, check out our Sil Sit Down with David Johnston!
These are only a few among the many great books out there; many news outlets including CBC and the Guardian have released reading lists tailored to these trying times. Larger book chains, such as Indigo, are also offering free shipping until March 31, and many public libraries have increased access to their online catalogue, where books can be borrowed to be read on a device.
Libby is a great app developed in partnership with public libraries that allows you to browse, borrow and store e-books and audiobooks on compatible devices with ease. All you have to do is set up a library account and login to Libby with your library account. You can find out how to do that here.
If you’re more interested in physical books, Locke Street store Epic Books has been doing porch deliveries of books in order to minimize exposure and support social distancing.