Monday 16 March 2020

#JustSaying - Stay Calm & Read

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Jennifer @HoldsOnHappiness
wrote a post recently about keeping calm in a world suddenly gone mad. Her simple solution was to stockpile books, not toilet paper. And tea.

It would seem that all the end-of-the-world stories I've read over the years, have seeped into my subconscious, as I would have to self-isolate for well over a year before I even went close to running out of unread books or tea!

But it got me thinking, what WOULD I read if my family had to go into quarantine thanks to one of us being exposed to Covid-19?

Plagues and pestilence have been the scourge of human life since time began. Which reflects the extraordinary number of stories that have been written about this topic since then. As soon as we started recording and remembering stories, natural disasters got the starring role. For instance, plague and pestilence visit the characters on the battle field in Homers' The Iliad. You'll also find a far bit of this going on, with the whole wrath of God behind it, in the Old Testament stories as well.

Giovanni Boccaccio went there in the 1350's after the Black Death with The Decameron, as did Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. Daniel Defoe gave us Journal of the Plague Year written in 1722 and in 1826 Mary Shelley wrote The Last Man.

More modern takes include Katherine Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider (which sounds fascinating by the way - a 1918 Spanish flu story), Albert Camus' The Plague, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders, Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, Peter Heller's The Dog Stars, Chris Adrian's, The Children’s Hospital, Ling Ma's Severance, and Philip Roth's Nemesis (a polio outbreak story).

If man-made bio-disasters are more your thing then you could try Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake trilogy, Frank Herbert's The White Plague, Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, Dean Koontz' The Eyes of Darkness, Justin Cronin's The Passage and Stephen King's The Stand.

But would we really turn to plague-lit as a form of comfort during these trying times?

According to Buzzfeed last week, the 2011 movie Contagion is now the second most watched Warner Bros movie and the tenth most popular Apple iTunes movie. Maybe it should be reclassified as a documentary?

If I had 2-3 weeks off work, where I had to stay quietly at home I would have no trouble filling my time. I have several unopened jigsaw puzzle boxes, cupboards full of our favourite DVD's (for when Netflix falls over due to high demand!) and mountains of unread books. But I do feel sorry for my more extroverted friends. Two weeks stuck at home is their worst nightmare!

I might be tempted to reread King's The Stand. But I'd like to think I would use the time more fruitfully and finally tackle some of those more challenging books on my TBR like, Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann and Milkman by Anna Burns. Or maybe I will finally read all those delightful Angela Thirkell books stacked under by my bed for reasons of pure comfort and escapism.

Have you prepared your self-isolation reading list yet?
What are you looking forward to reading if you suddenly get two weeks at home?

For more Bookish Covid-19 posts try BethFishReads food post and Paula's positive spin here.


  1. I have at least one week at home now, and it may turn into more, who knows. Like you, I have so many books on my TBR shelf and also my library shelf that I am in no danger whatsoever of running out. Plus I have lots of sewing projects!

    None of my books are especially plague-related, though I do have a book about Lister and the development of anesthetic. I was just thinking about Camus' Plague, which I read last's all about quarantine!

    1. Ohhh sewing projects! I forgot that I have a boxful of cross-stitch patterns. So much to do to fill my time 😊

  2. I have been thinking I should tackle some of the big books I haven't had time to commit to like Anna Karenina and Middlemarch but it is possible I will just read Angela Thirkell.

    1. Yeah, I ended up pulling High Rising off my shelf - time to start at the beginning 😊

    2. Ooo, Angela Thirkell would be perfect! Good idea!

  3. I am trying to read light books. I am having a hard time focusing.

  4. I'm going to avoid anything dystopian or plague like! Too close to comfort right now. Here in the UK we're in partial lock down - restaurants, cafes, theatres, gyms closed. Essentially any place that people would congregate. We're told to prepare for at least 12 weeks of self isolation. So I've been making lists of projects to occupy me. One thing I have aplenty is books...

  5. I routinely have a couple of weeks between jobs, so I know what I'd do. Read, get some reviews posted, go for solitary bike rides along the Swan River. But no going out to dinner, which I would find hard. Do I have any plague books? I suppose I do, a lot of SF is about communities dying off for one reason or another - I look around my study: I have a monster book on the Paris Commune where Parisians died of starvation and disease in the Franco-Prussian War; Alan Marshall's I Can Jump Puddles (I was born just as the plagues of Polio and TB were coming to an end); and don't let's forget smallpox that decimated east coast Aborigines (Watkin Tench) I have a 1848 edition of Pinnock's Goldsmith's England: histories of England, Rome and Greece - what plagues does that contain I wonder. Bill H


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