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A recent survey showed that people in the UK have almost doubled the amount of time spent reading since the government announced a national lockdown back in March, many turning to books as an escape or simply because they have more time on their hands. Whatever your reasons for reading, we’re here to inspire you with some more literature to add to your list. Here at Hynt we have also been rediscovering the joys of a good old page turner, so this week we asked 5 of our content writers to share their favourite reads from the lockdown period. Take a note and don’t forget to share your recommendations with us too!
The top pick from my quarantine reading list is not surprisingly one of Waterstones’ best sellers: Bernadine Evaristo’s ‘Girl, Woman, Other’. Having heard such good reviews from friends and within the literary world, this was the first book I ordered once quarantine started, and I raced through it with a dedication I haven’t been able to give to a book for years. The empty days spent at home were the perfect backdrop for reading Evaristo’s bestseller, as I was able to fully immerse myself in the plot- which definitely required concentration as many of the stories are interlinked. ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ follows the interwoven life stories of twelve different characters- mostly black, British women- that span the course of several decades and weave questions about race and feminism seamlessly throughout. I found it astonishing how a singular novel could represent the lives of so many women, friends, and lovers with equal depth and detail, and the prose stripped of punctuation or capitalisation creates a free flowing, poetry style of writing which I really enjoyed as it increased the pace of the story. This is a book I have recommended to all my friends and family regardless of gender and race, and I urge you to read it too.
My other favourite reads from the lockdown period have to be the famous ‘100 Years of Solitude’, which I finally committed to reading and was so glad that I did- despite the very intricate plotline!- and Jessie Burton’s ‘The Confession’- a gripping mystery novel about secrets and motherhood, set against the incredible backdrop of 1980s LA- which I found so engaging that I couldn’t put it down and I ended up finishing in just 2 days!
I haven’t read much during the past few years, but when I did ever read, my go-to genre was usually very sad, you could even say depressing, books. During lockdown, a friend of mine came to visit and told me about a book I must read- ‘A Little Life’, by Hanya Yanagihara. I don’t know what made me order it immediately, but I did, and I eagerly received the book a week later. I won’t spoil it for you, but I couldn’t leave the book alone, and instead of taking ‘Instagram breaks’ like I usually would, I took some reading breaks. The plot follows the lives of four classmates as they move to New York and explores how their relationships deepen and darken over the years. It’s a hard read, and definitely not for everyone (a lot of very literal abuse descriptions among other topics) but if you can handle/love those kinds of books I would definitely recommend! ‘A Little Life’ opened me to a whole new world, and I fell in love with reading.
My first recommendation is ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins. This book was a surprise, as the plot was initially not that attractive to me, but everyone said wonderful things about it. But that is exactly it, it’s not the story or the characters but the way it’s written that is interesting. It’s the story of a band in the 80s that was extremely successful but that all of a sudden split up. Through only a series of interviews the story is told by the interviewer who is trying to understand what happened. As the characters contradict each other and tell different tales of the same story the plot is pieced together bit by bit. This book is incredibly gripping; while I was not reading it, I was thinking about it, and I could barely wait to get my hands on it again. I devoured it in three days while stressing out and moving countries during lockdown.
I also have to mention ‘Expectation’ by Anna Hope; as a woman in my 20s it is inevitable I have a list of expectations for my future life, that I can only hope do come true or somehow in a few years be glad they didn’t. This book is exactly about that, as it goes back and forth through the life of three friends retelling scenes from their 20s and subsequent 30s and 40s, while they drift apart, reconnect and deal with the inevitabilities of life. I have to admit I shed a tear at the end of the book, not because it was sad but because it was so real.
‘City of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert was a fun lockdown read, not a hard one to get through. It’s a unique love story set in the 1940s New York theatre world, and the book tackles sex, sexuality and acting glamour in an interesting way. I mainly enjoyed this novel because of how different the storyline was, it’s not your regular “girl meets guy” and I found the main character Vivian very realistic. A fun light read for sure!
I also really enjoyed ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden, it is SO educational yet a wonderful story. A historical fiction novel written from the first person perspective of a geisha working in Kyoto during World War II, you learn about the physical and mental struggles she overcomes to become the most famous geisha of Gion. It’s probably the most educational fiction book I have ever read, and it’s kind of stuck with me because of it.
Lastly, ‘Summer of 69’ by Elin Hilderbrand was a very chill read, which I liked because it gave me the summer vibes I longed for during a time when I was stuck indoors. A coming of age novel that follows the lives of four siblings during the most renown summer of the 60s, ‘Summer of 69’, although not too notable in terms of plot, was overall a very pleasant read and the perfect escapist novel for during quarantine.
I was also a fan of ‘City of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert; once I started reading this it was impossible to put it down, it's wit, candor and energy makes it a compelling read.
The second book on my list is ‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ by Ijeoma Oluo. The message and content of this book is serious and important, but Oluo makes it a fast easy read with her personal experiences and anecdotes throughout the book. This is a must read for people from all backgrounds and of all ages.
My third book is ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know what you're thinking, this is hardly new, but after a night of lockdown spent rewatching The Great Gatsby, I was reminded of my love for Fitzgerald and his romantic commentary on 1920's New York City. If you haven't read Fitzgerald since your teacher forced it upon you when you were 13, I would definitely recommend giving this a read. It's a classic for a reason after all.