I read a tweet the other day that said that self-isolation was the perfect time, not to binge Netflix, but to get some long-planned reading done. Further, stories have a powerful way to remind us of redemptive truths that we might be tempted to write off as cliché in trying times like these. Find below a list of three fictional reads that might be especially timely in the age of self-isolation.
Peace Like A River – Leif Enger
There’s something about books that are set in rural mid-America that are quite soothing and anxiety reducing. This masterpiece by Leif Enger combines quaint Americana with well-paced action to tell the redemptive tale of a loving Father and his best efforts to lead a family through turmoil. Possibly one of the best endings in fiction I’ve ever read.
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Set in the Great Depression, the Grapes of Wrath is a terrible book if you’re looking for an escape from the anxiety of this present moment. However, I think it’s a timely read for two reasons. One, for a culture so obsessed with the now, it puts our current crisis in historical perspective. Reminding us that the prosperity and security many of us Western millennials have enjoyed throughout our lives exist, largely, as a historical anomaly. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Steinbeck paints a few striking pictures of tremendous neighbour-love against the backdrop of selfish ambition that characterized some in this time of scarcity. Like Peace Like A River, the ending itself makes reading the book worthwhile.
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Another book set in rural America, Gilead tells the story of John Ames, a Congregationalist minister. Tackling topics such as vocation, the stories we inherit from our family, and theological angst, Gilead is the perfect slow read that begs to be mulled over and enjoyed with a cup of tea. In my humble opinion, Robinson is truly one of the great writers of the 21st century, and Gilead is her at her best.