more books to get lost in
As I’ve mentioned before, this communal down time — the Great Pause — is the perfect opportunity to find a bit more reading time each day.
For two weeks, over on our Facebook page and on Instagram — every day, in the early afternoon — I shared suggestions for fourteen books that I find either completely absorbing and a bit magical, or immensely comforting … perfect reading material, in other words, for troubled times.
Again, these are not reviews per se, just suggestions. Plus a few notes on why I love them and why I hope you might enjoy reading them as well.
The first seven books are here, and the second week’s set of books are below.
If you’ve already read any or all of these books, let me know what you think of them.
If you haven’t yet read these but would like to, please consider ordering a copy from one of the shops on our Novel Cat list of favorite indie bookstores … or order from our Novel Cat storefront at Bookshop.org — where your purchase helps support all their brick-and-mortar member bookstores. Or, if you prefer to get books from your public library — but can’t, obviously, go there at the moment — try the Libby app, which lets you borrow ebooks from your own local library, for free. All you need is your library card.
Book suggestion number 8 takes us way, way back in my reading life. When I was in elementary school, I devoured all manner of books, many of which were illustrated by the incomparable Garth Williams, including The Cricket in Times Square. I honestly don’t remember much about the story besides its wonderful celebration of friendship, featuring Harry Cat, Tucker Mouse, and Chester Cricket. But I do remember that I loved this book. If you have young children at home and haven’t yet read this one with them, I highly recommend it. And if you have older children at home, or none at all? I would still recommend it. There’s something immensely comforting about old favorites.
#9: Station Eleven
To be honest, I hesitated including Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven in this list of “quarantine reads.” Post-apocalyptic fiction is very much *not* my thing, and this one is even about a devastating flu-like virus that sweeps across the world, rendering it unrecognizable. A little too close to home at the moment, I’d say.
But … This book is achingly lovely and life-affirming and, in the end, so hopeful. I absolutely loved this book. It’s been ages since I first read it, and I’ve often found myself thinking about it in the years between then and now. If you haven’t read it (and IF you won’t be too bothered by the parallels between this fictional world and our current reality), I hope you’ll give this one a try.
#10: Song of the Forest
I received my (first) copy of The Song of the Forest, by Colin Mackay as a gift when I was in college, studying medieval history. It’s not an easy book, but I do remember savoring it — its poetic language, and its strange, dark, ancient story. Somewhere along the way, I lost my copy of the book and only recently found a new copy online; it’s a difficult book to locate. I obviously haven’t read it in quite a long time, but from what I remember, it brings to life an ancient, unknowable world that you can’t help but get lost in. And I know that I loved it well enough to spend decades searching for a replacement copy.
I’m deviating ever so slightly from my plan to bring you book suggestion number 11: Elizabeth and her German Garden, by Elizabeth von Arnim. I can’t promise that I will love this book, since I only started reading it the day before I wrote this. I did already know how much I enjoy this particular author’s writing, though (you can read about my love for another of her other books here). The one I’m reading now was the first book she wrote and, once again, I’m finding her writing delightful. And if you, like me, are someone who values books, solitude, quite reading time, and gardens … I dare say she will speak to you, too.
“… I laughed again for sheer satisfaction when we reached the garden and drove between the quiet trees to the pretty old house; and when I went into the library, with its four windows open to the moonlight and the scent, and looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.” — Elizabeth von Arnim
Book suggestion number 12 is The White Cat and the Monk (text by Jo Ellen Bogart & illustrations by Sydney Smith). This sweet picture book — based on a poem written by an Irish monk in the ninth century — is as much a how-to as it is a story. The brief text and the simple, delightful illustrations create a marvelous, quiet meditation on our love for our pets, our love of books and learning, and the joy of focusing on a particular task.
I’m generally not one who reads a book because it’s hugely popular. There are some bestsellers that I completely avoid for various reasons, and there others that friends might finally convince me to try, despite my initial misgivings. Book suggestion number 13 was one of the latter. I’ll admit I was pretty darned late to the party with All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. I mean: a book about a blind girl in World War II? Not the most uplifting story, you might be thinking, to add to my list of magical, comforting books worth getting lost in. But never fear: the writing in this book — every detail — is exquisite. Throughout, we’re reminded that the world may not be perfect; far from it, in fact. But when we look closely, so much of it is surprisingly beautiful.
“Here’s what I mean by the miracle of language. When you’re falling into a good book, exactly as you might fall into a dream, a little conduit opens, a passageway between a reader’s heart and a writer’s, a connection that transcends the barriers of continents and generations and even death … And here’s the magic. You’re different. You can never go back to being exactly the same person you were before you disappeared into that book.” — Anthony Doerr
My final entry in this two-week tour of Novel Cat book suggestions is The 10,000 Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow. This book is a love letter to stories and to imagination and wonder, and to the power of words. There is magic here, and gorgeous writing and other worlds, all to get lost in. And despite some dark moments along the way, the main character — and we, the readers along for her journey — couldn’t ask for a better ending, in my opinion.
“Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page rifling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-color prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries.” — Alix E. Harrow
Hi there! I’m Jennifer, and I want you to know this: Reading books makes us happier & healthier, but most of us have forgotten how to indulge in cozy reading time. Cats, though; they haven’t forgotten the art of indulgence. So I help busy readers — like you — be more like house cats, because indulging in quiet, cozy spaces is the key to unlocking the magic of a good book.
Know a contented house cat in or near Lexington, Kentucky? We offer custom cat portraits for book people.
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“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”
W. Somerset Maugham
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”
“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”
“What a happy woman I am, living in a garden, with books … birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”
Elizabeth von Arnim
“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
“The art of reading is … an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us; when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
“When I … looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.”
Elizabeth von Arnim