Covid has me stuck in a reading rut. In the early days I found myself collapsing with a Fresca and some Animal Crossing at the end of each day. Midway through the pandemic times I switched to a movie and crochet project to while away my evenings. While my family all still thoroughly enjoy spending time with each other, this has been a very long season. Days at home that were once great for catching up on projects, reading a good book, playing games with family, are more the norm now, and something can feel lacking. To achieve a sense of satisfaction, to feel like you’ve accomplished something on yet another day at home, here are five books you can read in a day. Five books you can quickly add as completed to your Goodreads challenge. Five books to make you feel as though your brain hasn’t atrophied.
The Gnome Project by Jessica Peill Meininghaus
In an attempt to find purpose and persistence in her daily life, this lackadaisical crafter set off on a year-long voyage, from the safety of her living room, mostly. Over the course of 365 days, she crafted 365 needle felted gnomes. This is a bewitching story of how committing to something simple, to a small daily ritual, can enrich your life. And if you don’t feel like you have time for something like that, it is encouraging to know that she accomplished this whilst raising four children and moving across the country. The book comes complete with instructions on how to make your own needle felted gnome. I have yet to make the gnome, but I loved reading the book.
Notes from My Captivity by Kathy Parks
A young girl sets off with her stepfather to the Siberian wilderness. He is an academic in search of a family of hermits; she is an aspiring journalist in search of a story about his futile pursuit of a myth. The Russian terrain, however, is unforgiving, and soon she finds herself taken captive by the family they were searching for. Will she escape or be eaten? Will she be rescued or sacrificed? This survival story is highly compelling, and readable in a day simply because you will not be able to put it down. Parks draws you in with a connection to the myth, to the protagonist, and to the wilds of Siberia. In places it reads like some kind of dystopian future, in others like it belongs in the world of Lyra Belacqua.
The Emissary by YōkoTawada
We follow the day-to-day life of Yoshiro ,who lives with his grandson Mumei in a post-apocalyptic Japan. We are never told exactly what the disaster was that befell the planet, just that borders were closed and the outside world no longer exists. We are given hints, in the fragility of the children, the loss of foreign culture, but it is never revealed. Instead of being a pessimistic story of a catastrophe and the repercussions this has on family life, the book offers compassion and hope. Creating joy out of dystopia, Tawada presents an “after world” that is remarkably timely.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
I feel that British teenagers are introduced to Alan Bennett in the way that American youth read Mark Twain, and it is from my teen years that I find my love of Bennett’s words. A playwright of note The Uncommon Reader is a story about the Queen of England. Not the intrigue of her vast family. Not a Downton Abbeyesque tale of manners. Instead Bennett shows us what happens when the Queen steps out of the palace and accidentally encounters a mobile library. As I loved visiting our mobile library as a child, I was thoroughly delighted to find the Queen spending some time there. Along with kitchen worker Norman, she discovers the joy of reading and contemplates duty to self. Engaging, delightful, and funny as only Bennett can be, you should probably have a cup of tea close at hand for this one.
Hilda and the Hidden People by Luke Pearson and Stephen Davies
If you have enjoyed or plan to enjoy the Hilda series on Netflix, then you will thoroughly enjoy the series of tie-in novels created to accompany it. Loosely based on both the original graphic novels and the Netflix series, the books follow Hilda on her adventures through woodland and city. Having lived her life in the woodlands, we meet Hilda as she begins to encounter some of its more magical residents, and watch the impact they have on her life.The first book corresponds to the first two graphic novels, and the first few episodes of the series. You lose some of the whimsy of the graphic novel, but this is still a light-hearted romp with a wonderful blue-haired girl through mystery and fantasy.
I love a committed read, my favorite novel is Anna Karenina, one of my fondest reading memories is reading George Eliot’s MiddleMarch in front of Keele Hall while at University in England, but these little nuggets of literary wonder hold a special place in my heart and on my bookshelves. And they are great if you feel behind in your Goodreads reading challenge!