Books not to read in lockdown

balaambalaam Shipmate
The White Plague - Frank Herbert.

In the "I don't like sci-fi" thread I mentioned the above title as not being an appropriate read in a pandemic, a bit obvious given the title. But I wondered which good book, it has to be a good book, would you recommend not be read until we are out of this crisis?

Books can be from any genre.
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Comments

  • I think Tom Clancy's Executive Orders is a quality example of a spy/military/political thriller. It's major theme of biological warfare using an engineered version of Ebola suggests that perhaps it should be avoided at the present time.

    AFZ
  • As history graduate and ex-nurse who lectures in death and dying, I have a completely unsquamish fascination with the historical and social aspects of death and have loads of books on the subject. But during my recent covid illness I’ve been sticking to more cheerful subjects and avoiding some longtime favourites such as Catharine Arnold’s Necropolis: London and it’s Dead. Occasionally sensationalist, it never the less gives a gripping and grisly history of death in a city. But perhaps not one to read whilst struggling for breath (I recommend her book on Bedlam and madness, lol).

    In early January, a friend gave me a copy of Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider, a book about the Spanish Flu, as she knew I was interested in the subject - I haven’t summoned up the courage to read it yet. I have recently bought Catharine Arnold’s Pandemic 1918 though, so I obviously think I will be up to it at some point.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited May 2020
    Any dystopian novel where the writer wants us to get outraged about a government routinely violating peoples' privacy and other basic freedoms. Because of the counter-thematic temptation to mutter "Yes, Mr. Orwell, but we're dealing with a pandemic!"
  • Colin SmithColin Smith Suspended
    Not quite a book, but Waiting For Godot springs to mind.
  • The Bible?

    I'll get me coat...
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    I think we had a bit of discussion on this on another thread, but people seem to be pretty evenly divided between those who like reading about plagues, pandemics, and general dystopian scenarios while living through them, and people who want their reading to be as escapist as possible.

    I had a lively discussion with some friends about this: one of them has been reading Emily St. John's Mandel's Station Eleven, which is set about 20 years after a devastating plague has wiped out much of humanity, and has been highly recommended to me as being full of post-apocalyptic hope and beauty. I'm not sure I have the mental energy to read it right now though.

    I prefer reading about past plagues, of which many good literary examples came up on the other thread.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I just finished this book which should probably not be read during the lockdown.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31933102-gather-the-daughters
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    Trudy wrote: »
    I think we had a bit of discussion on this on another thread, but people seem to be pretty evenly divided between those who like reading about plagues, pandemics, and general dystopian scenarios while living through them, and people who want their reading to be as escapist as possible.

    I had a lively discussion with some friends about this: one of them has been reading Emily St. John's Mandel's Station Eleven, which is set about 20 years after a devastating plague has wiped out much of humanity, and has been highly recommended to me as being full of post-apocalyptic hope and beauty. I'm not sure I have the mental energy to read it right now though.

    I prefer reading about past plagues, of which many good literary examples came up on the other thread.

    Thank you.
    Station Eleven is now on the kindle.
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    I won't be re-reading Jean Ure's Plague 99 trilogy any time soon. Written in the 1980's, it was very plausible about how an unexplained disease would overwhelm the system.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Connie Willis's Doomsday Book.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    You might want to postpone reading Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle for a bit.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I have been considering re-reading On the Beach, if I can find my copy, although it is probably not recommended for this time period.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    I've just finished reading Manzoni's The Betrothed which ends with a depiction of the plague hitting Milan.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    I'm drawn to books about pestilence, like Camus' The Plague set in a North African city under French rule, Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter which concludes wirth the arrival of the Black Death in Norway in 1349 and I reread Katherine Anne Porter's short story Pale Horse, Pale Rider available online here. It helps to intersperse these grim reads with EF Benson's Mapp and Lucia or some Terry Pratchett.
  • What about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle"? So near to freedom, yet still in captivity.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    Catch 22 - I feel we are in one at the moment. Stuck in lockdown, afraid to come out.
  • MarthaMartha Shipmate
    I started reading The Grapes of Wrath but decided it was far too depressing for the current situation. Back to Discworld instead.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Grapes of Wrath is too depressing for any situation, IMNSHO. I can't understand why it's so popular as a school set text - teenagers are depressed enough already.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Probably along the lines of "you think you have it bad". :grimace:
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    edited May 2020
    I suspect it's simpler than that; it's very short. The Great Gatsby, which is the other American novel often studied over here, is also short.

    I like your theory, though. Maybe both are right...
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I think all the books we studied were depressing - Jane Eyre, Kes (though also short!), and my sister did Tess of the D'Urbevilles and was put off Hardy for life!
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Maybe it's another manifestation of the 'if it's funny it can't be Great Literature' fallacy. We studied Twelfth Night for O level, but we only got away with that because it was Shakespeare (and our teacher had to explain all the dirty jokes).
  • Tragedy seems to resonate across the centuries. Humour doesn't last very long.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Lockdown by Peter May - apparently rejected when it was written for being too far-fetched ...
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    edited May 2020
    Tragedy seems to resonate across the centuries. Humour doesn't last very long.

    Canterbury Tales? (OK, I'm cheating a bit there as not all the tales are meant to be funny) Jane Austen? Marriage of Figaro? The entire works of Gilbert and Sullivan? Lysistrata? Aesop's tales?
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    @Jane R I have been put off Austen by too many of her fans not realising it is satire and aspiring to be like Emma. [/tangent]
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Well, I don't much care for the Goon Show... perhaps the problem is that everyone can agree on tragedy, but there is a much wider range of opinion on what's funny and what isn't.
  • Lots of YayLots of Yay Shipmate Posts: 42
    Eigon wrote: »
    I think all the books we studied were depressing - Jane Eyre, Kes (though also short!), and my sister did Tess of the D'Urbevilles and was put off Hardy for life!

    I too studied Tess for year 12 English and apart from being very confused about how the rustling of leaves leads to pregnancy, also was very displeased with Hardy. A few years ago I decided to give him one more chance with Jude the Obscure. However never finished it and decided my original displeasure with the author was entirely warranted.
  • Some years ago I was teaching IB English to a group that included a lad whose older brother had died in a bizarre accident. It made me very aware of the number of family deaths in all the texts we'd chosen!
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    There is a certain group of authors - Hardy and Elliot being the obvious ones - who are considered classics, but whom I never really get on. I guess Shakespeare would be included too. I am not dismissing their writing quality, but they do nothing at all for me. Not even slightly interested, unless the stories are take and reinterpreted.
  • I read Far From the Madding Crowd for English O level and was equally put off Hardy for life, although I quite like his poetry. Even living in Hardy's Wessex for a while, being surrounded by references and knowing the sites where the 70s film were set well haven't managed to reconcile me.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    @Schroedingers Cat Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.
  • la vie en rougela vie en rouge Circus Host, 8th Day Host
    I read Far From the Madding Crowd for English O level and was equally put off Hardy for life

    Me too (although it was GCSE by my day). It has the most implausible plot in the world - all his sheep happen to fall off a cliff so he goes looking for work and goes past a farm which happens to be on fire. Said farm happens to belong to a woman who once refused to marry him. It is also unremittingly depressing from start to finish. I've never read Hardy since.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    I read Far From the Madding Crowd for English O level and was equally put off Hardy for life, although I quite like his poetry.
    Same here except it was The Mayor of Casterbridge for GCSE. Miserabilism is much easier to take in four stanzas than in a whole novel.

  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    balaam wrote: »
    Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.
    I think mileage varies on that one. The tragedies and the more poetic comedies are better read in my experience unless the staging and cast are exceptional; the histories and the less poetic comedies (not a negative; I'm including Much Ado about Nothing) work better staged or on screen.

  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    I was fortunate to have an English teacher who bucked the trend for depressing novels. “We are going to read the greatest American novel” he announced. We read Huckleberry Finn. Brilliant!
  • Dafyd wrote: »
    balaam wrote: »
    Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.
    I think mileage varies on that one. The tragedies and the more poetic comedies are better read in my experience unless the staging and cast are exceptional; the histories and the less poetic comedies (not a negative; I'm including Much Ado about Nothing) work better staged or on screen.

    It does indeed depend upon the production. Our cable arts channel here showed the Globe Theatre productions. Several of them, especially the comedies, were spoiled by the cast shouting the lines rather than projecting their voices. I realise that there is no amplification in the theatre, but the lack of modulation spoiled those plays for me.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I think when a producer takes the play and re-interprets it in a way that is a) honouring the original and b) contemorary in presentation it works. The stories can be great, but they need presenting in a way that are accessible.

    And yes - they are better performed than read. When we did Julius Ceasar at school it was the second read before I realised that he had been killed. That is how bady I get them.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    balaam wrote: »
    Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.
    I think mileage varies on that one. The tragedies and the more poetic comedies are better read in my experience unless the staging and cast are exceptional; the histories and the less poetic comedies (not a negative; I'm including Much Ado about Nothing) work better staged or on screen.

    It does indeed depend upon the production. Our cable arts channel here showed the Globe Theatre productions. Several of them, especially the comedies, were spoiled by the cast shouting the lines rather than projecting their voices. I realise that there is no amplification in the theatre, but the lack of modulation spoiled those plays for me.

    Heckling bt the crowd at Globe productions is part of the re-creation of how the plays would have been received in Shakespeare's time. That the crowds react is intentional.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    When we did Julius Ceasar at school it was the second read before I realised that he had been killed. That is how bady I get them.

    Having taught Julius Caesar for several years, I have to feel that this is at least partly a failure on your teacher's part.

  • balaam wrote: »
    @Schroedingers Cat Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.

    Absolutely. At the very least, read them aloud. Reading aloud in the classroom isn't too bad a way to get at Shakespeare's plays, but I'd always recommend seeing them performed as well. In general I'm not a fan of "modernizations" although I did quite enjoy Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet - not that I'd recommend it as an introduction to the play.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    My high school teachers had us read aloud and act out Shakespearean scenes. I had the opportunity to play Petruchio in the wooing season.Wicked fun. As for classic novels, we read Wuthering Heights in Grade 12. I am not sure I would re-read it during the pandemic but I did listen to Kate Bush's song last week.
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    I've just finished reading Manzoni's The Betrothed which ends with a depiction of the plague hitting Milan.

    It is a wonderful and very moving book which deserves to be better known in English speaking circles. I believe Italian schoolchildren are put off by it being the invariable Great Italian Novel and set text.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    edited May 2020
    "Jane Eyre," is one of my all time favorites, I think I've read it about ten times. I love "Tess," too, but only read it three times.


    On topic, is Stephen King's, "The Stand," where I first heard of the CDC and wanted to work there. He has posted Chapter Eight for anyone who wants an example of how plagues spread.The Stand excerpt.
  • balaam wrote: »
    Dafyd wrote: »
    balaam wrote: »
    Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.
    I think mileage varies on that one. The tragedies and the more poetic comedies are better read in my experience unless the staging and cast are exceptional; the histories and the less poetic comedies (not a negative; I'm including Much Ado about Nothing) work better staged or on screen.

    It does indeed depend upon the production. Our cable arts channel here showed the Globe Theatre productions. Several of them, especially the comedies, were spoiled by the cast shouting the lines rather than projecting their voices. I realise that there is no amplification in the theatre, but the lack of modulation spoiled those plays for me.

    Heckling bt the crowd at Globe productions is part of the re-creation of how the plays would have been received in Shakespeare's time. That the crowds react is intentional.

    I'm not questioning the crowd reaction, but rather the way in which the cast delivered the lines, especially when compared with other productions from the same venue.
  • There have always been guest directors for different productions and plays at the Globe, so interpretation varies across a season. Something I noticed in some productions was an emphasis on puns or clarification of lewd allusion by gesture, sometimes it felt a bit too much.

    If it's available, the Isango Ensemble production of Venus and Adonis was incredible (and their Mysteries are wonderful too).
  • There have always been guest directors for different productions and plays at the Globe, so interpretation varies across a season. Something I noticed in some productions was an emphasis on puns or clarification of lewd allusion by gesture, sometimes it felt a bit too much.
    Shakespeare is full of lewd puns. They're not so obvious when declaimed in RP, but when delivered in some approximation of the pronunciation that would have been current in Shakespeare's time, they're rather clear. Shakespeare is popular entertainment for the Tudor masses - ribald gestures would fit right in.
  • balaam wrote: »
    @Schroedingers Cat Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.

    Absolutely. At the very least, read them aloud. Reading aloud in the classroom isn't too bad a way to get at Shakespeare's plays, but I'd always recommend seeing them performed as well. In general I'm not a fan of "modernizations" although I did quite enjoy Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet - not that I'd recommend it as an introduction to the play.

    Loathed it. Luhrmann is vulgar beyond description.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    Didn't Baz Luhrmann make that film about Australian ballroom dancers? I rather liked that one.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    balaam wrote: »
    @Schroedingers Cat Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read and are far better that way.
    At the very least, read them aloud. Reading aloud in the classroom isn't too bad a way to get at Shakespeare's plays, but I'd always recommend seeing them performed as well.
    I agree about reading aloud, or at least hearing the words in one's head: one wants to get the sound and rhythm of the words. Modern acting styles, to my mind, are naturalistic in a way that overrides the rhythm.
    In general I'm not a fan of "modernizations" although I did quite enjoy Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet - not that I'd recommend it as an introduction to the play.
    I liked that too. (Shakespeare was vulgar in his time.)
    One of the things Luhrmann does, which a lot of modern dress theatrical productions miss, is that he has fun drawing attention to the bits where he's modernised something.
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