What a peculiar and unsettling time we find ourselves in. In such a short period of time, we’ve all become fluent in a new language of social distancing and self-isolation, and we have all had to adjust to new ways of navigating what suddenly seems a very scary world.
The upsides of our current situation seem few and far between but having a little time to settle in with a good book is certainly one of them.
Having said that, seeking solace in the pages of a book has not come as easily as it normally does for me. I have found it extraordinarily difficult to concentrate these last few weeks, with my mind continually turning over the magnitude of the current situation. Perhaps we should be kind to ourselves, and just sit with the sadness while we get used to the huge changes in our lives. It is tempting to feel that we should be reading challenging literature, writing a novel or perfecting a skill, but there is value in stillness, and there is no need to feel pressure to be continually productive.
‘What’s wrong with doing nothing? What’s wrong with having a rest? What’s wrong with admitting that this is beyond us?
Nothing, that’s what. Feed yourself, wash yourself, do the small necessary stuff. That’s all you need to do’ – Marian Keyes
Whenever life gets tough, I find myself returning to the comfort of books I have read before, particularly well-thumbed copies of favourites that have accompanied me through major life milestones already. I love the warm bath familiarity of returning to well-loved books, the memories of all the other times you’ve read them before tumbling forth as well as the familiar words. I purposefully tuck photos and postcards into my bookcases as well, in order that I will have nice surprises some time in the future when I reach for the comfort of an old favourite.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that when asked about favourite books many people return to childhood favourites and classics such as Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. I am a strong believer that with every time a book is read different elements will be seen and discovered, particularly as you travel through life and see things from changed perspectives as your experience grows and develops.
Just as we are all having to discover the positives of staying home and finding comfort in the familiarity and closeness of home, there is a certain joy to returning to well thumbed favourites.
What do you turn to for comfort and solace? The Willoughby Book Club team have suggested some of their favourite comfort reads:
Mapp and Lucia by EF Benson
Gloriously funny and minutely well observed social comedy, this is pure escapism with an acid touch. I have lost count of the number of times I have re-read all the Lucia books (you’re in luck, there are six altogether), but I particularly like this one, wherein the dastardly Mapp tries to steal the secret recipe for Lobster a la Risholme…
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein
Where to start with the Lord of the Rings? It is long enough to keep you occupied throughout a long stint of self-isolation, and it covers all themes of friendship, found family, triumph over adversity, humour, adventure, and wisdom.
But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.
Samwise Gamgee- The Lord of the Rings- JRR Tolkein
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
This is deliciously eccentric but warm and loving memoir of Nina Stibbe’s time as a nanny for a literary north London family. Arriving as a naïve teenager, she writes letters home to her sister revealing their everyday life with wit and charm. I have given away every copy of Love, Nina that I have bought, it makes you want to share the joy.
Snuggle under your favourite blanket and enjoy the escapism of books… we’ll be with you in spirit!