“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“Hello. How are you doing?” As days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, these words were the ones I found myself repeating over and over to friends, family, and classmates. If lockdown has taught me anything, it has taught me the importance of communication—not only in relation to the spread of information and the way the media covers current events, but also how important it is to connect and stay connected with people. There were many things I took for granted before lockdown that I hadn’t even realized I’d been taking for granted. The daily interactions with classmates, professors, mentors, and friends is something I know many of us keenly miss. But if careful isolation has taught me anything, it has taught me that apart doesn’t necessarily mean alone. We have a large range of resources available to us: phone calls, emails, messages, and snail mail are only a few I could name.
So how about you, reader? How are you doing? What kinds of stories have you been reaching for these past few months? What do you tend to read, to listen to, to watch? I have found that most of the media I have been consuming have been centred around themes of hope and wonder. Stories that don’t hesitate to confront sadness and suffering, but also reach for the light at the end of the tunnel. Stories that show me how to look at the world in a different way, to remind me that beauty and goodness can be found, even when it seems like there is no end to the darkness. Stories about selfless love, and endurance, and human connection.
I wanted to recommend a few books that address real problems and worries we might have experienced or are currently experiencing in our own lives, because these books show us that there is always hope. And that is a message that many of us need to hear, especially in such a time as this.
As Kate diCamillo so aptly puts it, “Stories are light”. I hope these stories bring a little bit of light into your day.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
It is difficult to look at the people around you the same way after reading any of Fredrik Backman’s books. He writes people at their most brilliant, at their most destructive, in the middle of making a life-changing decision, or falling into an old habit or tic when no one is watching. You can’t help but sympathise and feel for his characters, regardless of whether or not you may agree with them. In A Man Called Ove, we meet a seemingly bitter old man, whose loneliness and unspoken past is revealed when his new neighbours cheerfully shoulder their way into his life.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate diCamillo
I must pull out one of my favourite C.S. Lewis quotes for this book: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” In this case, Kate diCamillo’s books age wonderfully, and are equally profound and heartfelt to readers of all ages. This timeless fairytale brings together the lives of an unlikely cast of characters, including a rat, a princess, a serving girl, and a mouse with a dreamer’s heart.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The premise—a girl, her new friend, and her little brother search the stars for her missing father—is simple, but A Wrinkle in Time tackles a surprising number of topics, including familial love, bullying, death, and the important roles mentors and friends can play in one’s life. Though the worlds and dimensions the characters visit are vast and colourful, it is the relationships that tie them to each other and the struggles they help each other through that make this book so refreshing.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
This book is often divided into three volumes, but the overarching story bringing together the cast of characters’ individual storylines is one that can only be described as epic. Using expansive worldbuilding and beautiful writing, J.R.R. Tolkien spins a story about impossible journeys, returning kings, heroes of old, rings of power, and ordinary people who must choose between doing what is right, and doing what is comfortable. Many fantasy books often leave behind vague memories of glorious battles and exhilarating action, but Lord of the Rings is a story that leaves you thinking about the beauty of the natural world, the unbreakable bond between faithful friends, and the ripples of impact a loving word or a kind act can cause.
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
The Igiby family—Janner, Tink, Leeli, their mother, and their grandfather—live In the strange and wonderful world of Aerwiar. But their lives are not as ordinary as the children might have initially believed. This series is brimming with adventure, secrets, dragons, daring escapes, and danger lurking around every corner. Despite the trials they face, however, the Igiby children continue to grow and persevere, carrying with them the memory of their mysterious father, the love they hold for one another, and the hope they need to walk onwards.
Jaslyn’s elementary school teachers were often chagrined to find her reading under her desk in the middle of class, and though she managed to concentrate on her studies in later years, she has always been and will always be a lover of stories. Jaslyn calls Thailand, Taiwan, and Canada home, but will always have a special place in her heart for Middle Earth. These days, she spends her spare time reading to her little sister, embroidering, scribbling frantically in her notebook, and composing long-winded letters. You can also find her in her little corner of the world:
Living Room Couch Sofa Table via Pixabay [https://pixabay.com/photos/living-room-couch-sofa-table-690174/]. License: CC0 1.0 Universal.