With a little more time to ourselves for the foreseeable, and another socially distanced bank holiday weekend on the horizon at the end of May, we're going to have to start looking for new ways to keep things interesting as the COVID-19 pandemic conditions continue. Maybe an opportunity for those titles you've always wanted to read, but have never got around to? Cue, seven classic books you can complete in one weekend during lockdown.
Yes, reading is largely about seeing where the story takes you — but there's also something so satisfying about reaching the final page and placing the book back on your shelf. If, like us, your current attention span isn't likely to stretch to some of the more hard-work, lengthy tomes, here are seven shorter reads to add to your lockdown list.
1. ‘The Pearl’ by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck is one of the best-known American writers of the 20th century for good reason. The Pearl tells the story of Kino, who like his ancestors, pearl-dives for a living. He earns just enough to help his family get by, until one day he finds an unbelievable treasure. The Pearl is based on a Mexican folk tale, and at 96 pages, it should keep you occupied for a couple of reading sessions at least.
2. ‘A Room of One's Own’ by Virginia Woolf
To this day, Virginia Woolf is heralded as a pioneer advocate of women in writing and creative spaces. A Room of One's Own is an empowering extended essay, based on a lecture titled Women and Fiction, given by Woolf at two Cambridge University women's colleges, in 1928. Still regarded as a leading feminist text, the essays were published the following year in 1929, and read as a discussion of traditional literary stereotypes. It may be non-fiction, but it's got the pace of a novel, with characters and a storyline to keep you engaged until the last page.
3. ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye was the debut novel of legendary author Toni Morrison — who went on to become the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature — and at 216 pages, it's the perfect length to get lost in over a long weekend. It follows the story of 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove, growing up with her family in Ohio, and praying to God that her eyes will turn blue so she will be as beautiful as her white peers. Pecola’s life does eventually change, but in ways she could never have imagined.
4. ‘A Room With A View’ by E.M. Forster
If you're longing to be whisked away to the Italian countryside, then A Room With A View is the next best alternative. It follows Lucy's escape to Florence with her cousin Charlotte, liberated from the drudgery of their daily life and the limiting social expectations put upon them. You'll feel as if you're right there with them as they explore the new and avoid the mundane — a delicious slice of escapism.
5. ‘Bloodchild and Other Stories’ by Octavia E. Butler
While science fiction usually comes in the form of massive epics, the titular short story here, Bloodchild, is only 31 pages long. It transports you — along with the Terrans (humans living on another planet) — away from earthly norms, to exist alongside an alien race, who are facing extinction. The only way the aliens can survive is to plant their larvae inside the bodies of humans. Ultimately, it's a story of sacrifice and love in unusual places, something we can relate to on some level right now.
6. ‘Giovanni's Room’ by James Baldwin
Set among the glamour and grit of 1950s Paris, Giovanni's Room opens with an American proposing to a young woman. Soon after this exchange, however, he finds himself caught up in an affair with a male Italian bartender. It's a captivating exploration of the conflicts that sexuality can present, and the consequences of infatuation and forbidden love.
7. ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series. We meet the famous detective as he settles into life at a country estate, following the Great War. Soon, however, the wealthy elderly lady who's helping Poirot is poisoned. So far, so Christie. With lots of likely culprits, this is a classic — almost comforting — mystery that will keep you guessing until the last chapter.
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