5 Books to Read if Lockdown Has Killed Your Attention Span

My top easy reads that are perfect for lockdown 3.0.

If you’ve struggled to pick up a book in the last year, you’re not the only one — trust me.

What should be the perfect time to settle down with a cup of tea and a good read (when you’re forced to stay at home, what else is there even to do?) has been anything but for me. With everything going on in the world, I found it impossible at times to focus on the words on the page in front of me, opting instead to doomscroll through social media or binge-watch 20 episodes of Kitchen Nightmares just to feel something.

However, a good book speaks for itself, no matter how hectic the outside world may be. I’m choosing my top five easy reads that helped me take my mind off lockdown and will transport you to another world where there are, thankfully, no global pandemics insight.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi

I read this book quickly during the first lockdown, partly owing to the fact that it’s only 213 pages long, and partly because it’s just so comforting.

Set in a small coffee shop on a back street in Tokyo, drinking a cup of coffee here enables one to travel back in time: the only catch is you must return to the present before the coffee gets cold, or else there are terrible consequences. The story follows four characters as they get to grips with life, everything they wish they could change and the lessons they learn along the way. The novel highlights the importance of letting go of control: something that’s vital to remember during a global pandemic.

Magical realism is rife throughout the story, helping to take you far, far away from current events. The book itself is a perfect distraction, quieting the noise in your head and helping you forget about, well… *gestures broadly at everything*.

Conversations with Friends

Sally Rooney

Following the hype last spring surrounding the BBC Three adaptation of Normal People, I decided to delve into Sally Rooney’s debut novel (a decision influenced by binge-watching the series, of course). I’d already read Normal People, plus Conversations with Friends was only £4.50 at the big Tesco, so why not?

I fell in love with this book and can admit that I’m in awe of Sally Rooney as a writer. Following the lives of Trinity students Frances and Bobbi, the plot explores their developing relationship with an older couple, Nick and Melissa, alongside all the ups and downs of learning to be an adult. It is beautifully written and is the sort of book that, as a writer, you can only aspire to have written yourself.

A BBC Three adaptation of Conversations with Friends is reportedly on its way, so keep your eyes peeled to see if it causes such a stir as its predecessor. What will be Conversations with Friends’ version of Connell’s chain or Marianne’s bangs? Stay tuned to find out.

Love in Colour

Bolu Babalola

This was one of my most highly anticipated debuts of 2020, and it did not disappoint. Each chapter follows a different set of characters, a different plot, and most importantly, a different love story.

Adapted from mythology from around the world, Bolu Babalola updates many traditional folktales for a modern audience. Taking inspiration from Nigerian, Chinese, Greek and Persian folklore (to name just a few), these timeless love stories are retold from a fresh perspective, making you fall in love with the romance genre all over again. The final three tales are originals written by Babalola, with one beautifully written chapter even being based on her parents’ love story.

The chapters are thrilling and evocative. The fact that each one is a short story makes it an extremely pleasant read, keeping your mind active as you get to know each complex character. If you’ve been doing long-distance, have had your heart broken during lockdown, or just need some well-deserved time away from your partner, this is the perfect read for you.

Such a Fun Age

Kiley Reid

This was probably my favourite read of 2020. The characters are so well-developed, the plot entirely unpredictable, and the writing style completely faultless.

In the opening pages, Emira Tucker, a young Black woman living in Philadelphia, is accused by a supermarket security guard of kidnapping the white child she is babysitting. The novel follows the events that occur as a result, exploring the dynamic between Emira and her employer/wannabe best friend Alix, as well as the relationship that emerges between Emira and the white man who records the incident in the supermarket.

This was one of my biggest comfort reads during the first lockdown. As a young graduate who had just lost my job and was figuring out what to do next with my life, Emira was such a relatable character. Described by Reid as “a comedy of good intentions”, the book offers a modern commentary on race, class, and gender, demonstrating the toxic nature of white feminism and white saviourism.

The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton

Of all the books on the list, this is the one I read most recently, inhaling it in just five days: something I haven’t done since I was a child before my addled brain and attention span were forever ruined by social media.

The story, set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, revolves around Petronella, who moves to the Dutch capital after marrying a wealthy merchant 20 years her senior. As a wedding present, he gifts her a cabinet replica of their home, to be furnished by a mysterious miniaturist. But when the miniaturist’s creations begin to mirror real-life events with eerie precision, Nella must figure out what the miniaturist is trying to tell her, and whether the future can truly be altered.

The characters in this book are so endearing, you can’t help but want to read more about them. The mystery surrounding the identity of the miniaturist also helps motivate you to pick up the book, instead of your phone. Each character has their own mystery, which Nella must uncover with the help of the miniaturist, and which you, too, will want to investigate alongside her.

At a time when it can feel like the world is falling apart, books offer a sanctuary to retreat into, a safe place to weather the storm.

If you don’t feel like reading right now, don’t beat yourself up: if one thing’s for certain, the pile of books by your bed will always be there, waiting for you to find your next comfort read.

Please note, this was initially published on January 19, 2021 at Medium.com

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