Reading in lockdown: 5 hopeful books

books, Reviews, Thoughts

Reading has long been a pastime to help us get through times of crisis, whether personally or globally. Reading is also a great thing to do now that we have a bit more time on our hands! Sometimes, when this all gets a bit too much, a more hopeful read is better to turn to, so these are my top five (they are not in any particular order because I can’t decide which is better!) Each one is a reminder of how wonderful the world can be, some are novels, others poetry but each are hopeful and mostly escapist.

  1. How to Stop Time By Matt Haig.

Matt Haig is renowned for his writings around mental health and positivity. This book is one of his few fictional works which centres around a man who ages much slower than the average human being so has seen considerably more of the past. Haig takes the reader compellingly from the time of witch burnings to Shakespeare to the present day. If you are struggling during these times you may wish also to check out Notes on a Nervous planet (for anxiety) or Reasons to stay alive (for depression). We are all finding our way through these uncertain and changing times in different ways, and some are coping better than others. But know that you are not alone if you are struggling. Scarlett Curtis’ book ‘Its not okay to feel blue and other lies’ also might be useful.

2. The Lord of The Rings By J. R. R. Tolkien

A book centred around companionship and unity, as well as myth, wizards, elves and hobbits, Tolkien wrote the book based on his friendships as well as with his love of medieval mythology.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

3. The Poetry Pharmacy, William Sieghart

Poetry is often a source of solace during difficult times, and through these books Sieghart seeks to console the emotions with a suitable poem. Simply flick to the feeling of your choosing and have a read. Emilia Clarke is also currently doing readings of these poems on her instagram, along with other actors such as Stephen Fry and Andrew Scott which you can check out to get a taster, and when you buy the book all profits go to her charity ‘Same You’.

4. A Pair of Silver Wings By James Holland

Sometimes a reminder of a past crisis that people got through can bring hope for current ones. This is a really endearing book about friendship and love during the war as well as focusing on some mental health issues.

5. Silas Marner by George Eliot

This is quite a short novel based around someone who feels like an outsider in a new town slowly learning how to love life again. It’s a lovely read that demands its reader to look for hope in new, simple places.

Other honourable mentions:

‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown. This may not be overly hopeful but it is topical. There have been a few religious conspiracy theories around this time about this being about the revelations coming true. This book subtly deals with that through the issue of human overpopulation. It is a really thought provoking book, you can read my review here. It isn’t one for escapism out of the issues we are having today, but if you fancy diving deeper into the implications of scientific discovery and disease this is a compelling fictionalisation of it.

Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. This is one of my all time favourite books, it focuses around two characters mainly, Dr Victor Frankenstein and his creature, scrutinising what it means to be good or bad. Shelley brilliantly plays with the readers idea of what a monster is and how we define it. If you haven’t read it, it is a classic that is worth reading.

Poems you can read online:

Hope is the thing with feathers‘ by Emily Dickinson. A poem about hope as a bird coming and going that is always there even if you don’t notice it. This is a great poem for when hope is needed most.

This poem is interesting too although i’m not sure who the author is or where the source of this poem comes from.

Another book that sounds hopeful, as it is in the name, is Humankind: A hopeful history by Rutgar Bregman which is published tomorrow. I can’t wait to have a read and find out what it is like, apparently it’s a bit like ‘Sapiens’.

That was quite a lot more books than five but I hope at least one of them sparked your interest. This is a difficult time for people all over the world, but I hope you are well and finding ways to find some kind of normality. If there are any other books that have helped you to do so please let me know in the comments, I’d love to find more hopeful books to read!

  • If you are considering purchasing any books during lockdown and want to continue to support small hughstreet bookshops please consider buying them from Hive, an online retailer of books that supports small businesses.
  • For more on how books have helped in the past, this is a fascinating article from The Conversation about how books helped people keep calm during WW2.

BOOK REVIEW: The Song of Achilles

books, Reviews

I think I am off to a good start with my resolutions; of reading the books on my ever growing list. This was one of them –

“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller.

The story was so captivating I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again and I finished it in just over two days! I know very little of Greek mythology and had no idea about this love story perhaps overlooked by the tales of war in Troy. It is such a tragic but beautiful love story between Achilles and Patroclus, all written in the perspective of the latter. Of the little I knew in Greek mythology, I had heard that Achilles was arrogant and selfish, Miller’s story tells a very different, sensitive side to this legend really examining the ways of human nature, about our motivations, fears and hopes and how they drive us to our fates. It is almost paralleled with Shakespeare, following a similar course to Romeo and Juliet and examining the complexities of human nature.

Overall I would highly recommend this book whether you are a Greek mythology newbie like me, or have a passion and are well read in it, I think that you would enjoy this book if you want a story of love, of pride, of fate, of what it means to be a ‘man’ and of war, this is for you. I have, however, come away with a renewed interest in wanting to learn more about Greek mythology and this part of history.

I am now about to read her second book ‘Circe’ which so many people have been raving about recently – apparently it’s a feminist take on this Greek myth. Have you read it? What did you think?

Join my #bookclub on Instagram and let me know what you are currently reading on instagram 👇

BOOK REVIEW: Origin

books, Reviews
IMG_0595

I recently finished reading Origin by Dan Brown; I am a huge fan of his books anyway after having read Inferno, and this sequel does not disappoint – its just as thought provoking and fascinating as his past novels.

To sum up the novel, without spoilers, the novel is a thriller following the Harvard professor Robert Langdon going to see an ex students presentation about a new discovery he has made. He then finds himself running for his life along with Museum manager Ambra Vidal. It follows all the places they visit and all of the organisations, people and architecture in the book are real which is really interesting.

Brown also touches on some very controversial topics including the ongoing religion vs science debate and the impact technology has on todays society. It is incredibly thought provoking; it made me question and want to find out more about the topic and the way in which science and religion both have parts to play in todays society. It makes you ask questions about the relevancy of religion in the modern world, about the impact new scientific discoveries have on society and about the conflicts that can occur due to the differences in opinion people have over answering these questions.

Religion is presented almost like a comfort blanket in the novel by some characters (although the protagonist, Robert Langdon, remains a bystander throughout) as an idea that people go to when the world does not give them clear answers. For example what happens when we die – science cannot yet give a definite or ‘nice’ answer so perhaps religion is that blanket to turn to. Other characters depict a world in which science can cause more suffering for example issues with the lack of morality and emotion in computers or a lack of hope amongst society due to the less romantic answers to some questions Science is trying to answer. In this way, Brown presents a clear discussion of these themes allowing the reader to make up their own mind of what the answer should be. Science or Religion or maybe even both, side by side?

Overall I would 100 percent recommend this novel, it follows a very similar story arc as to many of his other novels but the topics are very relevant and fascinating – I couldn’t put the book down, I was so eager to find out what was going to happen next. It not only feels like you are reading a thrilling novel but also learning a lot from it too.

Have you read Origin, If so what did you think?

Have you got a favourite book? I would love to know your book recommendations – please leave a comment below!

Thank you so much for reading 🙂

(This is all my own opinion, unless otherwise stated, about the book and the themes it entails. You may think completely different ideas about the themes or have different thoughts about the novel as a whole and I am happy to hear your opinions about them)

BOOK REVIEW: Inferno

books, Reviews

I finished reading Inferno whilst on holiday in Nice, France, it was an amazing book simply because it was so thought provoking. Without giving too much away Inferno is basically about a professor helping the WHO to find a potential ‘plaque’ Zobrist could have hidden. The book takes you on a journey around Florence, Venice and Istanbul so is very cultured. I really want to go to Italy now!

I’ve seen the film as well which is still really good but the book is so much better because the ending of the film is very different and the film leaves out many of the details from the book which would probably be too difficult to portray on film.

img_8178.jpg

The main issue this book is based around though is the taboo topic of the increase in human population. The book includes a graph of this increase and how overpopulation can lead to so many issues but how we don’t know how to face the issue in an ethical way.

In my opinion it is something we need to deal with soon because we as humans do have a massive impact on the environment. The more people there are the more cars there need to be on the roads, the more electricity we need to create, the more houses we need to build, the more land we need, the more food we need, the more water we need, the more trees we need to cut down, the more of everything we need.

I kind of think we are the reason for global warming; its not necessarily just the cars we are using and other ways we are producing co2 but we are heating the world. If you think about it every piece of technology we use produces heat as a by product, the more people there are the more people there are using these products. The more people there are the more we have to use intensive farming because there is not enough land for organic farming, the more people there are the more co2 we are producing because that is the product we breathe out along with all other animals, the more heat we are creating because we live so closely together; we could be essentially creating our own greenhouse effect like when penguins huddle together to create heat. Obviously I am no scientist and this is just my opinion.

Maybe we are just so naive to not notice or do anything about the fact that we are the biggest problem facing the world. But I really couldn’t think of any way that we would be able to deal with it anyway.

Have you read inferno? if so what did you think of it x