We’re living in unprecedented times – emotions and anxieties are at an all-time high for many of us. Cooped up inside, we’re unsure when we’ll next see friends, family, or indeed anyone that isn’t the supermarket check-out assistant. As we get used to our new normal – as jobs become remote, and our social lives and even hobbies migrate online—now might be the time to embrace simplicity. How many times have you said to yourself you’ll read that book, start that website, or write the novel that you have in you? Now may be the ideal time to tick off all those ‘to-dos’.
Look at it this way, at least when lockdown finally lifts, you’ll have something to show for it – and you might even begin to enjoy the small pleasures and quiet moments that isolation brings.
And this is where literature comes in.
For a bookworm, there are few things that bring more comfort than a good book. Our favourite books and characters often have a unique way of consoling us through difficult times. Now is the perfect time to let our imaginations run a little bit wild, as characters from Elizabeth Bennett to Hermione Granger lead us through the best ways to spend lockdown from the comforts of our beds (or sofas)! So, grab the beverage of your choice, and settle down, as we take a tour of the best, literary-inspired ways to spend lockdown.
- Revisit, or discover, the old classics
We all have that list of books in our head (or on goodreads) that we will read someday in the future, when we’re smarter, richer or have more time. The dreaded Classics. Spanning Moby Dick to Les Misérables and everything in between, these are the kinds of books that are nice to have read (or even just have some knowledge of) if you’re at a dinner party or a pub quiz. Other than that, they get left on the bookshelf to gather dust. But the classics, however intimidating, have a lot to teach us. Where else could be live through the French Revolution or take a pilgrimage to Canterbury? So, whatever classic is lingering on your bookshelf, pick it up, dust it off and dive in.
I started reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment last summer. Yes, that’s right, last summer. I’ve picked it as the novel that I must absolutely finish during isolation. At the moment I’m reading a chapter a day and finally making progress, as well as getting lost in Dostoyevsky’s world, as the squalid streets of St Petersburg come to life. At least when I’ve finished with it, I’ll be able to say I have read something that, like it or not, I probably wouldn’t have finished in pre-lockdown life.
What about you? What’s your quarantine classic?
- Revisit childhood favourites
What was your favourite childhood novel growing up? My Dad loved The Chronicles of Narnia series and The Famous Five. For me, and no doubt many other millennials, it was the Harry Potter series. So, pick up your comfort read (we all have one) and be transported back to childhood. When I moved back to London, not anticipating a lifestyle-altering pandemic, I left my Harry Potter collection back home. But thanks to the wonders of technology, there’s no need to be deprived of your childhood favourite. Stephen Fry’s utterly enchanting audio narration is one option for Potter fans. Or why not download your favourite comfort-read to your kindle? Yes, I know it’s not the same as holding the real, physical book in your hands, with the oh-so-comforting smell of its pages. But in quarantine, we’ve got to get creative – and at least modern technology gives us plenty of options.
- Revisit (or finally read!) novels from your university reading list!
Before you throw virtual tomatoes at me, hear me out on this one. I think most of us are pretty guilty of neglecting at least part of our university reading list. Yet if you look through these poor, neglected books, you might find some real gems. Looking through my neglected novels, some of my books that I only got three-quarters of a way include Austen’s Emma, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Victorian classic, Lady Audley’s Secret. I think most of us found at least a few new favourites on our university reading list.
Maybe now is the time to discover your next one.
- Watch your favourite literature-inspired TV show or film
The great works of literature have given birth to many great (and not-so-great) adaptations. Whether it’s Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Dracula or even Bridget Jones’s Diary, there is a wealth of literature-inspired adaptations just waiting to be watched during the lockdown. One of my many favourites is Joe Wright’s stunning 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Along with my comfort reads, this is definitely a comfort watch for me. With its gorgeous cinematography, and equally gorgeous script and cast, there’s no beating this piece of cinematic perfection.
If you fancy a break from the classics, there’s also plenty of original new writers, whose works are taking the leap from page to screen. Take Caroline Kepnes’s deliciously creepy You. Kepnes’s novel was first published in 2014 and the second series is now streaming on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.
Who says that literature always has to have a happy ending?
- Write your own story!
Do you fancy yourself a Jo March or Briony Tallis? (OK, maybe not the latter…) Lockdown is the perfect time to write that short story, article, poem or even novel that you have been carrying around in your head for a while. All you need is a laptop or a pen and paper. Sitting down and writing anything can be downright scary. But as most of us are shut away from the outside world (and the outside world is shut away from us) now is the time to write like no one’s watching. Let your craziest ideas out. Get lost in words. Just have fun. No one ever needs to see your literary genius unless you want them to.
On the other hand, by the time we get out of lockdown, you could be on your way to becoming a best-seller. Love In the Time of Coronavirus does have a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?