By now, everybody’s beginning to go a little nuts from being cooped up indoors. As the coronavirus rages outside, Americans everywhere are having to learn how to deal with being isolated in their homes with little to no human contact. Well, have no fear. As an introverted bookworm, this situation is one I was born to handle, and I’m happy to share my insight with the rest of you. You’re welcome.
Sure, you could re-watch every cooking documentary on Netflix again or play solitaire for the hundredth time today, but why not take the opportunity to plow through some of history’s greatest literature? You’re not going anywhere anyway, so you might as well get cracking. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for five books to read while under quarantine.
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
One on the longest novels ever written, Marcel Proust’s semi-autobiographical epic recounts the life of a young Frenchman in excruciating detail. Over the course of 4,000 pages Proust remembers everything—and I mean everything—that ever happened to him, from the painfully mundane to the unapologetically petty. The perfect read for when you get tired of counting your feet.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
This famously ponderous tome details how governments can take advantage of a crisis by taking over—and subsequently destroying—the entire economy. Sound familiar? Admit it, you’ve always wanted to read it, but you’ve never had the time. Well, now you’ve got nothing but time, so dive in and find out the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: Who is John Galt?
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Emperor Nero is said to have fiddled while Rome burned. You may not have any musical talent, but you can certainly while away the end of civilization as we know it by reading this dry, academic account of another empire’s collapse. Spread across six volumes, Gibbon’s obsessively footnoted prose will keep you occupied for at least a couple of weeks.
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
Long periods in isolation can make you feel like you’re going insane. So, why not lean into that feeling by tackling one of the most oblique texts in the Western canon? While not as long as the other titles on this list, this book’s comparative brevity will be no obstacle to it taking massive amounts of time to read. Written in a complex, nigh unreadable phantasmagoria of multilingual puns, scholars are divided over whether Finnegans Wake even has a plot. It’s the perfect companion to your inevitable descent into madness.
It’s the doorstopper everybody owns but nobody has read cover to cover. Well, now’s your chance! And as we’re all probably going to die anyway, it seems as good a time as any to get right with the Lord. Don’t worry, once you get past the seemingly endless lists of genealogies, commandments, and tribal censuses, there’s some pretty good stories and sage wisdom in there. Spoiler alert: Pestilence is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Not that that should surprise anyone right now.
So there you have it. Curl up with a blanket and a hot roll of toilet paper, put on your reading glasses, and consume some great literature. After all, what else have you got to do?