So. You’re spending more time at home. That doesn’t mean that you can’t escape. During the COVID-19 outbreak, McNally Jackson Books, one of New York’s most beloved independent booksellers, has closed its shops, but is still open for bookselling online. Buy your next page-turners from McNally Jackson, and show your support for small businesses during this uncertain time. (Also, McNally is shipping free economy mail for anyone with orders of $50 or more inside the city, FYI.)
The following are some recommendations for reads that can make you feel transported, even while home-bound.
“The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann
This immersive classic takes you to a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps in the years just before World War I, where time nearly stops for protagonist Hans Castorp, who planned to visit his cousin for just a few days and ends up staying for seven years.
Any Tolstoy At All
Speaking of catching up on those classics you never seemed to find time for, cracking open pretty much any Tolstoy at all right now is recommended. If you’re only up for something brief, dive into the novella, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” If you’re up for something longer, try “Anna Karenina.” If you’re up for something epic, do “War and Peace.”
“Family Lexicon” by Natalia Ginzburg
Clocking in more hours at home and around your family can be both rewarding and challenging. Who better to offer some perspective than Natalia Ginzburg? Here, the 20th-century Italian writer tells the autobiographical story of her own family and friends going through the struggles of World War II and post-war Italy. Her measured tone and point of view offers a tenderness and witty insight into difficult times.
“Silence in the Age of Noise” by Erling Kagge
This long-form essay by Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge — the first person to complete the Three Poles Challenge on foot (that means the North Pole, South Pole and summit of Mount Everest) — is a mediation on how difficult it is to find silence in our contemporary world.
“American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin” by Terrance Hayes
Feel too scattered to follow something long from beginning to end? Try these postmodern sonnets that are immersed in our current American landscape — seeking to comprehend in verse some of the most pressing social and political issues of our time. Get a sense of what you’ll find there in this poem, read by the author.
“Narrow Road to the Interior” by Bashō
Maybe poetry is hitting the spot, but you want something that’s an old classic. Try “Narrow Road to the Interior,” a 17th-century travelogue by Bashō, the luminary of Asian literature who helped to perfect the haiku form. Here, in a mix of prose and haiku, he recounts his journey through the northern regions of Japan.
“The Human Condition” by Hannah Arendt
Maybe you don’t want to be entirely transported by rambling explorers or immersive narratives. Maybe you want to face the human condition head on. In this case, let philosopher Hannah Arendt guide you through some of the most pressing questions of what it is to be a person in our modern era.