The coronavirus lockdown has us all self-quarantining and isolated. Cabin fever may start to set in. To help you get through your isolation and to make sure that your inner jack is not a dull boy, we’ve come up with a list of four novels about…er, isolation, to get you through the next few weeks.
The Shining (Stephen King)
What’s there left to be said about The Shining. It has been called the seminal work in horror literature of the last century, it’s been made into a landmark film (that its author Stephen King hated) and it has spawned a million imitations and parodies.
The story writer Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and son Danny being locked away in the Overlook Hotel as Jack slowly descends into madness is probably already familiar to you but worth reading again, especially if you’ve only seen the movie.
Favourite Quote: “The world’s a hard place, Danny. It don’t care. It don’t hate you and me, but it don’t love us, either. Terrible things happen in the world, and they’re things no one can explain. Good people die in bad, painful ways and leave the folks that love them all alone. Sometimes it seems like it’s only the bad people who stay healthy and prosper. The world don’t love you, but your momma does and so do I.”
The Metamorphosis (Frank Kafka)
Since we are starting with classics, Kafka’s Metamorphosis is a must-read if you haven’t already been forced fed it by your high school literature class.
The story of Gregor Samsa’s transformation into an insect, his isolation from his family who are repulsed by his new appearance, and the problems it causes them is timeless and a dark look into Kafka’s own severe depression. In a time of disease and wanting, perhaps Gregor’s journey might ring true to those stuck in isolation or hospital.
Favourite Quote: “He thought back on his family with deep emotion and love. His conviction that he would have to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister’s. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three in the morning. He still saw that outside the window everything was beginning to grow light. Then, without his consent, his head sank down to the floor, and from his nostrils streamed his last weak breath.”
The Martian (Andy Weir)
What better way to contemplate our own isolation than to contemplate what it would be like to be isolated millions of miles away on another planet. It might also give some perspective to those of us freaking out (we’re looking at you Sam Smith).
The story of astronaut Mark Watney’s stranding and isolation speaks to the human spirit and the will to survive despite all odds. It also shows how science and knowledge can lead to good outcomes when utilized properly.
Favourite Quote: “If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”
Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)
A book for our younger readers out there or for parents looking to occupy their children. Hatchet tells the story of Brian Robeson, a 13 year old boy stuck in the Canadian wilderness.
Stranded after a plane crash, Brian must learn how to survive not only against the wilderness but mentally and emotionally by himself.
Favourite Quote: “He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.”