10 great reads for lockdown
I don't know about you but for the first couple of weeks of lockdown I could not settle to anything.
I found it hard to work, I couldn't get into Netflix, I would pick up a book read the same sentence 20 times and then go back to obsessively trawling the news and Facebook.
The horrors unfolding around the world could not be ignored and I lived in dread of when our little country would be overwhelmed by the coronavirus Covid 19.
Then about two weeks in, curled up in the rocking chair with a fragant cup of Lady Grey tea (thank God the shelves had been re-stocked with Lady Grey by then) instead of reaching for my phone to read yet more death toll reports of numbers so big they were becoming incomprehensible, I picked up my Kindle.
I started to read a business book, but meh . . . I then opened up a book I had purchased just before lockdown began - American Dirt. And suddenly my reading mojo was back! Hurrah!
So if you find yourself in the same place as me, using some of this precious time at home to read here's 10 of my favourite reads that I've picked up in the past six months.
By Jeanine Cummins
To be totally honest the issue of migrants travelling through South American and Mexico in the hope of crossing the border into the USA hasn't really been on my radar, other than to vaguely think that building a wall sounded ridiculous.
I'd always assumed people were chasing a better life but I hadn't really stopped to think about what they might be running from and this book opened my eyes.
I watch the trains go past my house and I cannot imagine riding on top of them. Yet that is a route a mother and her nine-year-old son must take, riding the infamous 'la bestia' as they flee to 'el norte' across Mexico after her entire family was murdered at a birthday gathering.
The Perfect Wife
By JP Delaney
The basic premise of this book about a woman who dies and is brought back to life as a robot didn't immediately appeal - robots not really being something I'm overly interested in. But this turned out to be a gripping and thought-provoking read.
The robot isn't a cutesy little thing with big eyes or all bleepy like R2D2. On the surface it looks and thinks like a human and it becomes hard to untangle your sympathies and feelings for this robot/human as it navigates living Abby's life and the circumstances surrounding her death.
Another bonus is that if you enjoy this novel, JP Delaney's other two books are just good, with another one due out soon.
The Alice Network
By Kate Quinn
It's been a long time since I read a book set in World War I and the characters of this story have stayed with me.
There is a chilling, evil thread woven through this story which is hard to shake when you put the book down. It makes me think about how in a crises - such as war - people reveal their true selves.
Two characters are woven together to tell the story of a young woman who's recruited as a spy and sent to enemy-occupied France. In the face of fear she discovers both her own limitations and finds the sort of courage and bravery we all might wonder if we possess.
The Woman in the Window
By A. J. Finn
I love books where you're not sure about the reliability of the protaganist, in this case an agoraphobi child psychologist who lives alone in her New York City home, drinking too much wine and spying on her neighbours.
Then a family move into the house across the way and she's something she shouldn't. As her world begins to unravel shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Reading this book is like when you misjudge a person only to realise with the passing of time how horribly wrong you were.
The Silent Patient
By Alex Michaelides
I've always loved reading crime fiction, but I love murder mysteries even more when the main character unwinding the plot is not your stereotypical alcoholic cop.
This story starts when a famous painter with a seemingly perfect life is found standing over her husband who has been tied to a chair and shot in the face five times, but refuses to offer any explanation or indeed to speak another word.
Six years after being admitted to a psychiatric unit, psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to make her speak again but the boundaries between doctor and patient begin to blur as he becomes obsessed with unravelling the mystery.
By Kristin Hannah
If you think what we're going through right now could be comparable to the second world war then you need to read this book.
Because, seriously, lockdown seems a piece of cake to living in a small French town that is occupied by the Nazis in 1939.
This book takes you on a journey through a truly terrible time with two ordinary, but very different sisters. One impetuous and headstrong, the other simply trying to bring up her daughter and keep her safe amid the impossibility of trying to protect her from the horrors surrounding them.
I found this book to be a gripping read.
By Fredrik Backman
When deciding whether to read a book or not I often read the first sentence and Bear Town doesn't disappoint: 'Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger'.
As the story works it way back towards this point you are left to wonder which side would you take?
Should an ugly deed be swept under the carpet and forgotten so a dying town can claim its chance of revival, or should the future be risked so justice can be done?
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine
By Gail Honeyman
I love this character-driven novel and oh, what a character!
Eleanor Oliphant is an eccentric, regimented loner. She's socially clueless and says whatever pops into her head without thinking. Her interactions with others are painful to watch, yet in a weird way make her so endearing.
A chance encounter with a stranger leads to her gradual transformation and the slow unveiling of secrets she has avoided all her life.
This is a story that is as at odds as Eleanor herself - simultaneously hilarious and heart-breaking.
By Max Porter
If you like books with a more literary bent then this is definitely one for you.
The writing is lyrical and poetic, yet pared back so the story can flow - as a former journalist I really appreciate tight writing.
The central character, Lanny, is revealed through the eyes of everybody, except Lanny himself, as an enchanting, free-ranging child who is gifted in a delightful way and sees the world in an unusual way.
The minutae of village life is woven through the story in beautiful detail through Dead Papa Toothwort, a greenman type of character
The story slowly gathers pace to even become a real page-turner by the end.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
By Mark Manson
This is my wild card, non-fiction inclusion. This is not the usual believe in yourself, follow your dreams, think happy and prosperous and life will manifest itself that way type of self-help book.
Instead Manson argues that it is life's struggles that give it meaning.
He believes we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously and realise we're actually not as great as we think we are and that our biases mean we're often wrong about things.
If you can get past the first chapter of unnecessary 'fucks' that seem to do little other than support the book title, you might just enjoy this book and in Manson's words "become a slightly less awful person".