Top Five Saturday: Books to Read while Stuck Inside/Quarantined

The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.

PREVIOUS TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:

7th March 2020 : Trilogies

14th March 2020: Books with Beautiful Covers

21st March 2020: Magical Realism

28th March 2020: Murder Mystery

So books to read whilst locked down… well, all and any of them, really! Do we take our time in lockdown to find comfort reading with warm and cozy settings and characters? Do we take the additional reading time (laughs ironically – maniacally – looking at the list of home schooling and home working tasks still to do!) to delve into classics and heavy tomes and literary masterpieces? Do we escape into fantasy and other worlds? Do we seek out post-apocalyptic narratives where things are even worse than they are for us?

What I shall look for, then, for this list is books with some sort of enforced isolation, seclusion, distancing but books which are either simply beautiful or uplifting.

For me, I have various prize lists that I want to get through and am really excited about – loving Ovid not Covid by Natalie Haynes on Instagram and Twitter – having adored her Stand Up for the Classics on Radio 4 so I shall start my list with her.

The List:

A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes

Why is this suitable for the lockdown?

  • It is set during the Trojan War, where Troy is on lockdown, battened against the beseiging Greeks. If you want an antagonist with the same fatality rates as covid-19, perhaps we should be looking at Achilles.
  • The writing is wonderful:

“Sing, Muse, he says, and the edge in his voice makes it clear that this is not a request… How much epic poetry does the world really need?

“Every conflict joined, every war fought, every city besieged, every town sacked, every village destroyed. Every impossible journey, every shipwreck, every homecoming: these stories have all been told, and countless times. Can he really believe he has something new to say?”

Circe, Madeline Miller

Why is this suitable for the lockdown?

  • Circe is imprisoned on her island, socially isolated and restricted, just as we are now.
  • We might not be able to unlock the transformative powers of nature in our self isolation, nor be visited by Gods and heroes, but there are lessons we might learn from this: the preciousness of the family we have but cannot visit, the value of the outdoors, our ability to be at peace with ourselves and our families that are not bad lessons to learn.

The Mercies, Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Why is this suitable for the lockdown?

  • It is set on an island and anything set on an island, isolated and cut off from the world, seems very apt at the moment: “Winter, 1617. The sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. A young woman, Maren, watches as the men of the island, out fishing, perish in an instant. Vardø is now a place of women.”
  • Like A Thousand Ships, it seems to explore what it is to be a woman and, in particular, what it is to be independent and self-sufficient as a woman, learning important lessons from hardships.
  • Finally and personally, it has been on my TBR shelf for far too long!

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman

Why is this suitable for the lockdown?

  • It is uplifting and sweet and wonderful, filled with warm and credible characters who have their own anxieties, worries and fears – and who find comfort in books, and isn’t that what we are all doing at the moment?
  • Nina Hill is a wonderful literary invention – with all the quiet strength needed to survive the vicissitudes of life (and she has a fair few vicissitude thrown at her in the form of a newly discovered family) – and we all need to find that quiet strength within ourselves, right now.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne

Why is this suitable for the lockdown?

  • It is a beautifully written, unromanticised, darkly humourous and humane novel – why are the Irish so good at that? I’m looking at you too, Lisa McInerney!
  • It’s main character is socially distanced – not through any virus but through the horrific anti-homosexuality laws in Ireland.
  • it includes some wonderful and tender relationships – as well as some more toxic one.
  • It is above all a story of redemption and of family and of love – and we all need to know that this time is coming to an end and a close.

Honourable Mentions And flights of fancy I Feel Guilty About Not Putting in the list

Upcoming TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:

11th April 2020 — Books with a Color in the Title

18th April 2020 — Sibling Relationships

25th April 2020 — Books Under 300 Pages

The Tags:

I hope everyone is safe and well in this crisis, and look forward to seeing your lock down recommendations!

Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.


Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!

So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!

Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!

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