The books I’ve read during Lockdown and what I really thought about them

I’ve been reading just a tad more than usual and I’ve had some fun while at it. I’ve also had some terrible books cross my kindle screen. In this article, I’ll tell you what I’ve read and if it’s worth your time. I am however going to draw a line on just 5 books available in English and one in Polish to avoid boring you to death. The books will be scored out of 5: for composition and writing style, character development, storyline depth, value for money and whether I actually enjoyed it. Probably worth stating this now – I grew up in Poland and this comes with an impressive ability to find fault in things, which means nothing ever gets 5 stars.

By the way, not one of these is about finance, I need a break from the topic too sometimes!

Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes

This sci-fi novel is written in a diary-entry format and follows few months in a life of Charlie Gordon. Without revealing the plot, this book covers some intense self-discovery, mental and emotional growth, alienation and loss. It raises questions about ethics, societal structures and what friendship really is. Not too long, I breezed through it in a couple of tearful evenings. There is a reason why it won awards, just saying.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unnatural Causes, Dr Richard Shepherd

This autobiography follows Dr Shepherd from his childhood until pretty much the end of his career as an active forensic pathologist. While at times it is very descriptive, I personally have not found the details off-putting, quite the opposite. The book, as any autobiography, is a tad self-serving, but I found it convincing, well written and truly interesting. It took me on a journey of discovering more about how medicine, law and policing are intertwined, how some of the high death toll disasters in recent British history unfolded and how they have been handled and how the ‘system’ has changed over the last few decades.

The book touches on some of the issues currently in the media and some in the recent memory, including death in custody amongst black people, SIDS & shaken baby syndrome and disaster planning for London.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Normal People, Sally Rooney

BBC made it into a drama recently and that’s the first time I’ve heard about the book. I clearly am out of the loop when it comes to this type of contemporary literature. Without giving out too many spoilers, the book follows the lives of two adolescents as they transition from high school into university and early adult life. It shows the good, the bad and the ugly. There is a lot of the ugly, which makes the book quite so interesting – I think it’s fair to say that while most of us like to live ‘normal’ lives, we also like to snoop on other people’s messed up lives.

While I personally did not enjoy the style the book, and in particular the dialogue, is written in, I enjoyed the storyline and character development. Also, it was £2 on Kindle, so a bargain.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

A great book about how religion, patriarchy and politics f*ck up the lives of women. This particular title has been highly rated by pretty much everybody who reads it, and I’m no different. The storyline follows two women – Mariam and Laila, who become, what the polygamous would call, sister wives to a manipulative and abusive husband, with no useful exit prospects. The backdrop to their life is just as bleak – if the Taliban is not going around murdering, the US bombs are falling or they’re starving. I would not call this book a pleasant read, but it’s definitely worth reading. The story is heartbreaking but it’s also full of hope.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Emma, Jane Austen

A British classic, recently made into yet another movie adaptation. I have learnt so much about the British from this book, honestly. The gossip, the attitude, the odd protocol, the banter. It was a fascinating insight into the culture and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in why the middle class is England is considered as quirky as it is. While I honestly don’t think the book is entirely representative of the culture anymore, it was an interesting read. It’s probably worth saying that I found myself studying the dialogue and the dynamics between characters keenly. If you however are planning to read it just to focus on the storyline, it’s a downgrade from the Gossip Girl, and not a graceful one. In fact, the storyline is downright boring and some of the characters quite flat and lacking in humour. The book in my eyes is saved by the context and the historic feel. Oh, and it’s also available for free in the UK.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Ganbare! Warsztaty Umierania, Katarzyna Boni

The title translates to: Give it your best! Workshops of Dying. It is truly unfortunate that this book is not yet available in English. It’s a collection of interviews with Japanese citizens and snippets of information related to events in these interviews, and focuses on the aspect of disaster survival, loss and transiency of life. The storyline progresses from earthquakes and tsunami into environmental and nuclear disasters. While it touches on the loss and suffering, it also transcribes the hope, resiliency and and human desire to move forward beautifully. The book ends with the author (who also happens to be a journalist) taking part in the Workshops of Dying – a literal workshop which is supposed to help the living come to terms with the imminence of death and the importance of living. If it sounds nuts to you, I recommend that you look it up.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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