The Best Books to Read During this Winter (of Uncertainty)June 16, 2020

Australia is not out of the red, and she's about to enter the winter of uncertainty, so the need to read a book, if an article, that offers solace and solutions. University students are looking for escape - and understanding.

You're among those students who aren't really bookish types, unathletic or at least uninterested in the hormone-driven lemming-existence of a certain group of students. (Varsity student? You might have to pay more attention to your surrounding.) And you're definitely not part of a small group of adolescent readers who can relate to the scholarly misanthropes populating H.P. Lovecraft's stories. However, you wouldn't forget the local librarian who offered little help in your search for new materials in the mausoleum of knowledge. (Your assignment ended in a sadly incomplete state, but you were grateful to the secretary of your department. What a dear!) You recalled a cool, starless evening, reading a book on the history of the Renaissance. You imagined a humid afternoon in mid-August, passing through those sumptuous halls that Petrarch wandered, singing of Laura, and Dante of Beatrice. You also found out that Landini lent his name to that cadence that would colour music (until the baroque), and you were delighted at the sight of bright Tuscan trees and skies that Leonardo and Michelangelo both strove to make men into angels. The sorry state of the world affected your travel plans, as you wondered if it would be safe to travel later this year. You're terrified at the thought of an airplane being a (huge) petri dish, but the recent protests reminded you of something else. Do you want an anti-racism reading list?

Everyone is exhausted, if not anxious, and you can only envy at the students from the northern hemisphere, who have the option to loaf during the summer. A summer of uncertainty, yet they don't have to worry about the coursework. On the other hand, the cooler months would prompt many to walk around, if not walk for hours. It may not be wise to do it this year when which is why reading could be productive, if rewarding. You may not be excited about reading more books (or news features), which is why you must do it at weeknights. There's no pressure to finish it in a day or two, and it's better than waiting for icicles to appear in your window. If you happen to live in Hobart, then the wait won't be long.

Some of the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction and Young-adult Books Worth Discovering

Roald Dahl's autobiographies, illustration by Quentin Blake. You should have been aware that your personal statement is not your best attempt on writing an essay about yourself. You would get another chance if more. Roald Dahl wrote stories laced with dark humor, but it was those books with eye-catchy illustrations that brought him fame. "Boy" and "Going Solo" should force you to look at autobiographies from a different perspective. Dahl didn't take himself too seriously, as his young life was like a roller coaster of an adventure. If you already read it, you should have noticed how he discussed the early death of his older sister. (It's remarkable when you realise that his books are marketed for very young readers.) Reading that account about Mrs. Pratchett, the not-so-sweet owner of the sweet shop, would give you a hint: Could this small skinny old hag, whom Dahl described (in his own words), be the basis of his unforgettable villains (in his children's tales)? There might be other ones, which he may have excluded it (in his books). The moral of the lesson is to lighten up, which you can apply in your next set of essays.

Short stories. You may be too tired of reading novels, unable to finish some books. Some short stories are as short as six pages while the long ones are twenty pages long or more. It should give you some pointers on why your essay paper must have a structure, namely an introduction, body (of details), and a conclusion. You can include a climax if you want to be creative. However, clarity is more important in essay writing. You can use subtlety when you venture to fiction literature.

Horror (to beat the lethargy). You're not too curious about the Dark Arts, but a short story about a discovery of the temple of Horus, which is not far from Aswan, Egypt, should make you recall about Indiana Jones (or The Mummy). It's armchair traveling at its finest (or scariest). They're also a risky attempt to pose as a (black) local, so you can participate in a voodoo ritual in the remote part of Haiti. And you need that knowledge for your (postgraduate) thesis. Hugh B. Cave doesn't seem like a fan of Grandpa Tulu, but you're past noticing. Anything to make you beat the lethargy. Revisiting Hogwarts is another option.

J.R.R. Tolkien's other works. It may be better to forget about another big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's book, but an animated series is possible. (You're not holding your breath on Peter Jackson.) You'll get to know all the little details of Middle-Earth in books like "The Silmarillion", which won't prompt you to travel to New Zealand (after reading it).

Children's books. They are easy to read, and they can free your mind from the anxiety (and Zoom fatigue). You can gain some ideas, which can make your next assignment more interesting, if not persuasive. Beware of indulging in this genre, though. (There are days when the cold beckons. It could tingle you, as you love the romance of it. Peter Fleming's short story might come to mind, about a foggy evening delaying the arrival of a train. Bad luck to a young heir, who is looking at an enigmatic passenger. And there's no one else at the train station.) It's not a bad idea to read a few pages while browsing at your inbox.

Fairy tales. You can't help comparing and contrasting the early versions and later versions. For instance, Disney's version of "Cinderella" is a lesson on patience and humility. It also shows that the pure-hearted lass would be rewarded. Doctor Who put some thrill in the premise. (Vampires vs. werewolves, which Hugh Jackman and Richard Roxburgh have done years ago.) And you must not miss the Russian version. Different versions reveal an idea or motif that you overlook. Keep it in mind. 

What Else to Do at this Moment

Aside from hoping for the return to the old normal, you can ask your mates if there are opportunities to help marginalised communities. This should help you become more conscious of the protests across America. The lack of social distancing might not make sense, a reminder not to forget your face mask (or scarf). 

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