October 21, 2020

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Top 5 Lockdown Reads

Our writer Katie compiled the Top 5 books from lockdown.

Lockdown has brought us many things; perspective, humility, gratitude, and a lot more free time. Perhaps you dabbled in the bread-baking craze, or achieved a couch to 10k. Or, perhaps you turned to the long-abandoned bookshelves of your house out of boredom, and rediscovered that old love of losing yourself in a fairy tale, set in a land far, far away…

That’s exactly what I did. Here are my Top 5 Lockdown Reads:

Little Fires Everywhere

Like so many good films and dramas, Little Fires Everywhere was a book before it was ever a series. Little Fires Everywhere rose to stardom on Prime Video during April (or was it March – what month is it?!), and quickly went viral. The six-part series is gripping, but reading the book brings a whole new layer of moral contemplation to the story.

In 1990s suburban America, white privilege is rampant and unless you have a steady job, a loyal husband, and four perfect children, you are a nobody. And isn’t this what we are still striving for? Little Fires, written by Celeste Ng, manages to question class, race, belonging, feminism, and motherhood all in one go. Most of the time, you think you are being challenged on one, to find that you’ve just had all your ideas of another turned on their head.

Quite honestly, there were very few characters in this book that I actually liked. Or at least, I liked them sometimes but then wanted to shout at them in the next chapter – as it can be with many of our acquaintances. Agonisingly, most characters were completely ignorant of their own faults, which was certainly frustrating at times and perhaps made the storyline a little predictable, but it also provided a window of insight. These characters were set on a path to disaster from the very first page, made more so by the dramatic flash-forward opener – perhaps a slightly unimaginative way to start a book, but it definitely sparks interest. With the threat of flames at every turn of the page, the reader keeps on trying to guess the culprit even though with all the transgressions, it could be anyone. 

I think it’s quite an accurate account of life, after all, who among us is truly perfect? I won’t give the plot line away, although I did see it coming. Perhaps I’ve read too many Agatha Christie!

4/5 stars. Available on Amazon for €5.51

Queenie

In the midst of the global pandemic there has been another call to arms, that of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rightfully so, people have decided to educate themselves more on Black lives and race issues within our society. There are a plethora of African American writers, each with powerful stories to tell, and Queenie is one of those.

For those who thought these issues were only in the US, Queenie, written by Londoner Candice Carty-Williams, offers insight into the reality of British stigma. Queenie finds any sense of belonging to evade her, seemingly denied both a British identity and a Carribean one as she is rejected by her own family and white society for being not much of either. She feels that “there’s no space” for her in London, and struggles to hold onto herself amidst a traumatic life event that leads her on a series of unfortunate flings. 

Queenie is a great read for those wishing to educate themselves, but aren’t ready to tackle the likes of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

3.5/5 stars. Available on Amazon for €6.13

Unorthodox

This book has probably been my favourite lockdown read. The full title is Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hadistic Roots. Deborah Feldman recounts her personal journey from Brooklyn, New York, to Berlin as she escapes the oppression of her intensely Orthodox Jewish family. It is simple and yet so profound as she discovers a new life and, more importantly, herself.

Unorthodox is an incredibly interesting insight into the Jewsish Orthodox religion, and Feldman offers an inside view into that life. There is an undeniable sense of community and belonging felt by Feldman, especially in the memories of her wedding preparations. Yet, it is also a closed society with no ambition beyond motherhood, and the four walls of her tiny Brooklyn flat are too small and claustrophobic for Feldman. Her escape to Berlin is reminiscent of the first freedoms felt at childhood, but on such a larger scale, and you find yourself rooting for her at every step. This is a heartfelt and honest story of a girl becoming a woman, and her own woman at that. Even better, the Netflix adaptation based loosely on the novel brings the whole thing to life. I recommend reading the book first though.

4.5/5 stars. Available on Amazon for €6.13

The Nocturnal Brain

A common lockdown complaint seems to be the inability to sleep. Either through increased anxiety questioning what the future will be like, or not enough time spent being busy, lots of us have found it hard to switch off at night. If you like a more intellectual read to get into the finer details of what sleep is and why we do it, then The Nocturnal Brain is for you. 

Dr Guy Leschziner is a qualified sleep specialist with years of experience. His book provides an in-depth look at many of the common sleep ailments, with some fascinating stories from real people to accompany them. I found this book really interesting, and Dr Leschziner explains the science in a very accessible way. Just be warned, you may find yourself diagnosing every bad nights’ sleep you have ever had – I definitely have at least five of the sleep syndromes!

4/5 stars. Available on Amazon for €8.75

Driving Over Lemons

What is any summer unless you have dug out your favourites reads – normally for the beach. Unfortunately, not all of us will be making it to the beach this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t conjure up a sunny escape in the comfort of our own homes. The Driving Over Lemons series are some of my favourite books, not least because they remind me of sunnier times spent in Spain when I was an au pair during my gap year. 

After retiring as the drummer of Genesis, Chris Stewart retired to rural Spain with his wife to become a sheep farmer. A curious life choice, but one that has certainly brought him plenty of adventure and challenges. The first book in the series is wholesome and delightful, with something to make you smile on almost every page. The other inhabitants of the Andalusian valley are certainly colourful characters, who bring added humour to the book and surprisingly, there is never a dull moment. If you don’t fall in love with these books, at the very least you will enjoy living vicariously through Stewart. Grab a copy and imagine yourself rambling over the rugged Spanish hills, catching a tan, and sleeping out under the stars.

4.5/5 stars. Available on Amazon for €7.18