Quarantine Classics Book-et List (lol)
I don’t know about you, but a world-wide lockdown seems like the perfect opportunity to read books you’ve always been meaning to read but never could be bothered / had the time to. Now we’re bored in the house and we’re in the house bored, this is a short list of 20th century / contemporary classics that will distract from all the weirdness.
White Teeth (1999) – Zadie Smith
Smith’s writing was so sought after that her debut novel, White Teeth, was bought by the publishing house Hamish Hamilton before completion. Set in London in the late twentieth century, White Teeth illustrates the interweaving lives of a multinational, multi- religious cast of characters, demonstrating that ‘Britishness’ is an unidentifiable concept. It’s a hefty, non-stop rollercoaster of a novel but definitely worth a read.
Get White Teeth here: https://whatlilyread.com/23am
Swan Song (2018) – Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
When discussing the work of Truman Capote, his infamy and celebrity is sure to follow. There’s something so captivating about the way Greenberg-Jephcott tells the story of the downfall of Capote through his ‘Swans’, the beautiful, jet-set aristocratic women that served as his confidantes. Creating a world inside a world, Greenberg-Jephcott’s meticulously researched novel makes the reader feel privy to the world of upper-class glamour and scandal. Read while googling pictures of Babe Paley and Slim Keith.
Get Swan Song here: https://whatlilyread.com/7wb7
Will you please be quiet, please? (1976) – Raymond Carver
Carver’s minimalistic prose can be described like ‘dirty realism’. A lot is left unsaid, there’s certainly an economic style to Carver’s collection of short stories that is unlike anything else. You may have heard of another Carver collection, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ (1981) because they bang on about it in the film ‘Stuck in Love’ with Lily Collins.
Get Will you please be quiet, please? here: https://whatlilyread.com/4fme
The Catcher in the Rye (1964) – J.D. Salinger
This is my favourite book probably ever. Over the course of a day, 17-year old Holden Caulfield explores New York City after being expelled from school. He is the ultimate angsty teen, desperate to escape the ‘phoniness’ around him while discovering himself in the big city. It is a must read. I cannot stress this enough.
Order The Catcher in the Rye here: https://whatlilyread.com/61od
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1962) – Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey’s incredible study of a psychiatric hospital tells of the misconceptions of mental health in the mid 20th century and the archaic behaviours and practices of those in charge. The mischievous Randal McMurphy is the perfect troublemaker as he pits himself against the authoritarian Nurse Ratched. Once you’ve read the book, watch the Jack Nicholson film.
Order it here: https://whatlilyread.com/i7ua
The Remains of the Day (1989) – Kazuo Ishiguro
Idyllic countryside, beautiful stately homes and a hint of fascism (?!). Journey through the West Country in the 1930s with Stevens, the ageing butler at Darlington Hall, as he relays memories of his very own Golden Age. Memories of a life surrounded by the aristocracy are considered and questioned against the backdrop of the English countryside. As the 2017 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Ishiguro’s masterful novel is a must-read considering the fact that our only options of a holiday this year will be a staycation in Devon.
Get Remains of the Day here: https://whatlilyread.com/gsux
A Good Man is Hard to Find (1968) – Flannery O’Connor
I had to put this in. O’Connor’s collection of short stories are brutal, freakish and dripping with her distinctive dry sense of humour. My favourites are the title story, ‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own’ or ‘Good Country People’. A Good Man is Hard to Find captures the ‘grotesque’ in the Deep South, a region fraught with a dark history and a difficult present. If you want a book you can dip in and out of but still feel satisfied, this is perfect.
Order A Good Man is Hard to Find here: https://whatlilyread.com/gblw
Stoner (1965) – John Williams
On the cover of my copy of John Williams’ Stoner, there’s a small quote from the Sunday Times branding it ‘The greatest novel you’ve never read’. This could not be more true. Possibly the first ‘campus novel’, William Stoner’s life is quiet, uneventful, nondescript. At the same time, it is a story of love, desperately sad, frustrating, and deeply moving. Stoner is the kind of novel that stays with you.
Order it here: https://whatlilyread.com/pxq4
If you have the luxury of time during lockdown, indulge in one of these beautiful novels. You will feel all the better for it.