Uplifting Reads for Isolation

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Initially upon drafting a shortlist of fiction, non-fiction and poems to make one happy, I found myself rather at a stalemate. As someone doing an English Literature degree, I seldom find a text that does not revolve around some aspect of grief or throw issues concerning society, complex relationships or turmoil up in the air. In spite of this, I successfully raided my shelves and whittled it down to six texts that I would label uplifting, and would recommend to those in quarantine feeling somewhat out of sorts, or simply wanting a break from other commitments.

1. The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures by Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux is a name that will be familiar with many I’m sure, be it from his BBC series ‘Louis’ Weird Weekends’ circulating in the late 90s or most probably his new-found internet fame. Whatever the case, I highly recommend this book to anyone with a fascination in American sub-cultures, the weird, the wacky and/or a personable narrator. 

Summary: In Louis Theroux’s first book, he re-traces his time spent in the States exploring sub-cultures and reconvenes with some notable characters in his documentaries. This book made it to the shortlist because Louis’ writing is so effortlessly light hearted (much like his father’s Paul Theroux) that you can’t help but read about these quirky, sometimes extremist, characters with an open-minded outlook. 

Favourite Quote: ‘The world is a stage we walk upon. We are all in a way fictional characters who write ourselves with our beliefs.’

2. Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential by America’s Master Communicator by George Lois 

This book I purchased in an American Urban Outfitters outlet on a Year 9 Ski Trip with my last $10, mainly as a means to spend my remaining dollars, though I was intrigued by the bold claim of ‘damn good advice,’ seeing as the book was just larger than a postcard.  

Summary: A light read, this book is crafted by a New York, old-school advertising mogul who does not put up with any nonsense. I think what really makes this book is the use of Lois’ eye-catching and witty graphics, which is probably why he was so successful in advertising. It goes without saying, however, that this text should be taken with a pinch of salt as Lois’ priceless anecdotes and assertions can at times be so matter-of-fact that they can near comical absurdity. Give it a read and if you don’t like it, in George Lois fashion — fuggedaboutit!

Favourite Quote: ‘If you’re a man, and you still think a woman can’t compete with you, she’s about to blindside you, pal.’

Moral Message: Be daring, be true to yourself, and work hard. Underlying this light-hearted narrative, Lois’ activist projects do remind the reader how far society has come in terms of equal rights for men, women and people of colour.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

There is a special place in my heart for Jane Eyre. Despite the trials and tribulations that Jane experiences, the ending of this coming-of-age novel truly warms the heart. If you are a sucker for happy endings and Byronic heroes then read on. 

Summary: I won’t reveal too much in this summary but the main narrative is recounted by Jane Eyre, a plain girl turned young woman that is sent from pillar to post in early 19th century England. Embracing a new governess position with open arms after her schooling, Jane catches the eye of the master of Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester, a brooding gentleman with a shady past…

Favourite Quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Moral Message: Class, sexuality and religion are mere pawns in the grand scheme of life when true love is concerned. 

4. ‘Things I didn’t know I loved,’ a poem by Nazim Hikmet

Hikmet’s poem written on a train from Prague to Berlin in March 1962 is beautiful for want of a better word. It encourages you to reflect on the little wonders of life that you would otherwise turn a blind eye to. With a lot of time on our hands, these wonders have become more prominent than ever, for me at least. 

Favourite Quote:

‘I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my 
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop 
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved…’

5. [Insert any Shakespeare comedy]

If in doubt turn to the famous bard for entertainment. If accessing the plays is a problem, have a look at Marquee TV online which is offering 30 days free streaming where you will find a range of Royal Shakespeare Company plays.  

Some Notable Favourites:

  • Twelfth Night
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • As You Like It

Favourite Quotes:

  • “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit”
  • “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.”
  • “I was seeking for a fool when I found you.”

6. The Complete Short Fiction by Oscar Wilde

What is nice about Wilde’s fairytales in particular is that they are innately comforting to read as reminiscent of one’s childhood, yet varied with the odd satirical allusion for the more mature reader.

Favourite Quote: ‘“What a silly thing Love is,” said the Student as he walked away.  “It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true.  In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.’

Moral Message: In The Happy Prince and Other Tales, Wilde explores the nature of selflessness and admiration which, if channeled by the average person in the midst of the current climate, could bring countless benefits to others. 

Image: Unsplash

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