Books: the epitome of escapism

In these strange times wouldn’t we all seize the opportunity to be whisked away to somewhere … other; some life … other.  Anything to get a breath of fresh air, despite being stuck indoors.  Anything to occupy you whilst you wait for the supermarket queue (in person and online … is there no escape?) to tick down.  Well, in the words of Mason Cooley (1927 – 2002), “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” Perhaps this blog will introduce you to something new …

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.

In the past eighteen months I’ve travelled to Paris, Tangiers, Hamburg, Moscow, Venice, and Japan. I’ve been to the sunny South of France, positively chilly Siberia, beautiful Budapest, LA, New York, Portofino, and Corfu.

 … but I don’t fly, and my passport expired two years ago.

Getting me onto a plane is akin to getting a cat into a travel box for a trip to the vets, incurring huge personal risk to those in the immediate vicinity; I don’t hiss or spit, but I’m definitely not the person you want to sit beside on your next flight!

In the past eighteen months I’ve also travelled to 1945, 1881, the roaring 20s, 1950, 1985, 1940, 1956, 1980, 1965, and 1946. I’ve experienced the depression, prohibition, two World Wars, and the Jazz age.

… but I don’t have a magic carpet (more’s the pity) a Delorean or a tardis.

All of a sudden, people up and down the country find themselves with time on their hands.  We’re not used to being cooped up, and it’s easy to feel a case of the stir crazies gnawing at you.  In any other circumstances this excess of time would be seen as an extraordinary gift – we would travel, get out, go see, dine, dance, meet, hug.  But somehow, when it’s forced upon us, the time stretches and yawns ahead of us whilst our cruel inner voices nag away that we we ‘really ought to be doing something’.  Well, reading is certainly ‘something’. 

Reading for escape is solely about reading for pleasure.  If your perfect escape is ‘literary fiction’ then so be it.  If your perfect escape is a bodice-ripper, so be it.  This is no time for book-snobbery.  This is the time to sink into the pages of something addictive, compelling and utterly absorbing … it might also be the time to experiment with something new.

These are unsettling times we find ourselves in. They won’t last forever, but in the meantime, here are some books I heartily recommend for diversion and escapism

PS – all of the book cover images are linked to their blurb on GoodReads

re-read (or read for the first time) one of the classics

Cast aside all memories of your school years, where reading one of the classics felt tediously dry. Now’s the time to re-visit this genre, dipping in to something a little more lighthearted and ‘frivolous’. Some of my favourites include …

feel the heat shimmering off the page …

There’s something highly evocative about a story set in height of summer on foreign shores. You feel you’re watching the characters through a heat haze; pollen and dust motes dancing above you, whilst the slightest of breezes whispers listlessly in the leaves dappling the sunlight.

delectably mouth-watering stories to savour

Chocolat was the first book I read where food played such a central role to the story, and it whet my appetite for more like it: Joanne Harris is the mistress of moreish. When I stumbled across Elizabeth Bard’s books I was in heaven – not only are they autobiographical, Bard has also been very generous with her recipe sharing throughout both books. Reading these without getting hungry is as tricky as eating a doughnut without licking your lips.

step into a world of glamour, gloss and riches

For those times when you want to turn left as you get on the airplane! You’ll sip Champagne whilst the pilot whisks you away to an exclusive spa resort, where your private butler escorts you to the pool, your monogramed luggage to your suite, and your other half off to the casino.

be swept off your feet

We all need a great big, swoony romance from time to time. Something to quicken the pulse and carry you into the sunset.

travel to another place and time

Historical fiction is fast becoming my favourite genre. It isn’t for everyone, but if there are three books that might just tempt you, then I’d like you to meet …

And before you even think “Captain Corelli? Oh, I’ve already seen the film”, then stop right there. The film is resoundingly, absolutely, totally and utterly nothing like the book … not even a whispy shadow of the book. If I had a penny for every time someone said that to me (before I’d read the book) I’d be living a Tasmina Perry lifestyle now. It wasn’t until I picked up Mum’s copy and started reading for myself that the light bulb finally came on.

thrills, chills and kills

The very definition of a page-turner has to be a book with a plot that keeps you guessing. Something so compelling and sinuous that you find yourself flicking back through the book to double-check a character’s alibi, feeling that crawling sensation when your chief suspect pops up on the page, and the thrill of having identified the ‘perp’ before the super-skilled (and often socially dysfunctional) detective.

for when you fancy something out of the ordinary

Magical-realism and fantasy books aren’t just for kids. In fact, the three books I’ve picked here are way too good for anyone but the grown ups. Night Circus is one of my favourite books of all time – it’s a love story with one foot very well positioned in the ‘suspenseful’ genre. Meanwhile, Rivers of London could comfortably sit in my ‘mystery / detective’ selection of books … except the main character happens to be an east-end Met Police officer with touch of magic (and an enjoyably dry sense of humour), chasing baddies with more than a touch of evil to their enchantments: it’s like The-Bill-meets-Harry-Potter. And Little, Big? Well, I’ve not read this one, but it popped up as a recommendation for me and I was hooked as soon as I read the synopsis. It’s on order, so expect a review of this one in the near future (i.e. once I’ve emerged from my escapism).

laugh out loud

There are times when a damn good giggle really helps to take the edge off things. None of these books are new, but their pace makes them an easy read, and their humour will lift your spirits.

hubby’s recommendation

Despite the first book in this series being published in 1989, it endures as hubby’s all time favourite read, and one he was adamant I included in this blog.

Thank you for reading this blog. I really hope I’ve made one or two suggestions here that’ve piqued your interest.

If you’ve got a book (or a whole shelf of books) that epitomise escapism for you, I’d love to hear about them …

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