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16 Reads That Will Enrich Your Life During Self-Isolation

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Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

We round up 16 books from a cross-section of genres guaranteed to enrich your days and nights during self-isolation. Everything from classic novels, to self-help guides and parenting lifelines – these titles could transform your life. So, if you haven’t read them by now, now’s your chance.

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement Day. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves (and the world) for the better. There are some incredibly useful insights here that can be applied to help us streamline life in isolation at the moment.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Prolific American author Stephen King wrote this insightful guide for aspiring writers as his comeback from a shocking car accident in 1999. Published in 2000, he describes his experiences as a writer and offers unrivaled insight into the mastery of wordplay.

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

A compelling memoir from Obama that drills into issues of identity, class and race. He speaks of being the son of a black African father and a white American mother searching for his evolving identity. The sudden death of his Father sparks and emotional journey both figuratively and literally when he traces his family roots — beginning in Kansas, to his mother’s family in Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family. All along struggling with the loss of his father. As one of the most successful men of our time, he pens a candid and truthful account of his personal experiences of race and relationships in a modern America. The knowledge he has garnered is imparted to the reader in the text, which is invaluable.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Counterculture hero Kesey’s epic is a must in anyone’s literary armory. Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the book is narrated by “Chief” Bromden, a gigantic yet docile half-Native American patient at a psychiatric hospital, who presents himself as deaf and mute. It tells of the heartbreaking struggles and relationships in the institution. A wonderfully tragic insight into human behavior and our fragile minds, it has become a modern classic. So touching, it was transformed into a Broadway play and a five-time Academy Award-winning movie directed by Miloš Forman. Keep the Kleenex on standby.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This novel invites you to become embroiled in the lives of a cast of characters living in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. Debatably the greatest love story of all time the story, it’s told by Nick Carraway, a man from a well-to-do family just out of fighting in the war and looking to sell bonds. He moves to East Egg, the slightly less grand area in comparison to West Egg, right opposite Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is mega-rich and throws magnificent parties every weekend which the whole town attends. However, Gatsby holds a dark secret about his past and how he became so great, a deep lust that will eventually lead to his demise. The true fascination is that author Fitzgerald drew from his own life experiences to create this masterpiece which became the vehicle for the stories of his entire generation.

The Catcher In The Rye by J D Salinger

One of the best books about adolescence ever written, and one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Protagonist Holden Caulfield is about to be booted out of boarding school (again!) for flunking his courses (again), decides not to wait until he is told to leave but instead heads back to his hometown of Manhattan of his own accord. He figures he’ll hole up in a cheap hotel, look up a few friends, then arrive home on time. But Holden is deeply troubled by the death of his beloved younger brother from leukemia, as well as a classmate’s suicide. Alone in an uncaring city, his already fragile psyche begins to unravel. In a nutshell, this is a story about the human condition and since we are all human, we should all read it.

Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway

This is the second collection of short stories by the master of fiction, Hemingway. The volume consists of fourteen stories, ten of which had been previously published in magazines. It was published as a unit first in October 1927. In this collection he explores the themes that would come to occupy his later works such as casualties of war, the tumultuous relationships between men and women, sport and sportsmanship. Pared down, gritty, and subtly expressive, these stories show the writer in his formative years emerging as America’s finest short story writer still to this day.

1984 by George Orwell

Orwell’s prophecy about the future is more chilling than ever. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision becomes increasingly more timely. The story is told of lead character Winston Smith’s rebellious desires as he exists in a time of complete political rule.  As ‘The Party’ rewrite history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth, Winston grows to hate the system more and more and seeks power and dangerously begins to think for himself but cannot evade the omnipresent ‘Big Brother’. A haunting vision of the world, this novel is so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny its influence and how it continues to occupy the imaginations of cross-generations —a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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Described by many literary critics as the greatest novel in the history of American literature – you need fewer reasons to add this to your locker. In part, the story tells of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than that, the book can be seen as part of its author’s lifelong meditation on the idea of ‘America’. Written with incredible, redemptive humor, this eternal classic is a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the theory of perception.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This story tells of a man (Dorian Grey) who never ages while his portrait turns decrepit. It first appeared in full in July, 1890, issue of Lippincott’s, a Philadelphia magazine with English distribution. At the time, The Daily Chronicle of London called the tale “unclean,” “poisonous,” and “heavy with the mephitic odors of moral and spiritual putrefaction.” The St. James Gazette deemed it “nasty” and “nauseous”. Millions have read it since and many most likely have similar thoughts, but we advise you to make your own deductions.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Widely revered as some of Dickens’ best work, this novel was intially published serially in 1852–53 and then in full book form later in 1853. The story of the Jarndyce family, who wait in vain to inherit money from a disputed fortune in the settlement of the extremely long-running lawsuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the novel is intellectually critical of England’s justice systems of the time, in which cases could drag on through decades of convoluted legal maneuvering. So inferential was this novel that it actually helped support a judicial reform movement, which culminated in the enactment of legal reform in the 1870s. This is fiction reflecting reality and spilling into real-world change at its best.

Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins 

“How to take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial life” – a strong gambit by arguably the most successful public speaker of our generation. He undeniably delivers, however, as all of his wisdom is put into this one behemoth book – squeezing every last drop of the lessons he has learned in business, life and love and sharing with the reader as though a friend. Now a recognized expert in the psychology of change, Robbins goes on to provide a step-by-step program teaching the fundamental lessons of self-mastery sending you off to discover your true purpose, take control of your life, and harness the forces that shape your destiny. Sounds very straight forward.

Why Would I Do That by John Doe 

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This book, which is more of a course book, adapts the basic strategies of psychotherapy and self-exploration, highlighting the universal role of defense mechanisms in warding off emotional pain. With easy-to-understand explanations, the first part teaches you about the unconscious mind and the role of psychological defenses in excluding difficult feelings from awareness. Individual chapters in the middle section go on to explore these primary defenses at work. The final part offers guidance for how to “disarm” your defenses and cope more effectively with the unconscious feelings behind them. Psychological defense mechanisms are an inevitable and necessary part of the human experience; but when they become too pervasive or deeply entrenched, they may damage our personal relationships, restrict or distort our emotional lives and prevent us from behaving in ways that promote lasting self-esteem. It is particularly poignant that we pay attention to these mental traits in times of self-isolation, hence a must on this list.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide For Dads-To-Be by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash

One for the dads-to-be. This may be a particularly stressful time to be expecting a little one but this book will soothe some of those concerns. An informative month-by-month guide to all the emotional, financial, and yes, even physical changes the father may experience during the course of his partner’s pregnancy. Incorporating the wisdom of top experts in the field, from obstetricians and birth-class instructors to psychologists and sociologists, filled with sound advice and practical tips for men.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chabon has gifted the male population with this collection of essays that cover fascinating discussions about fatherhood and so much more. His beautifully charismatic style bounces between memories of his own childhood and his musings on what it means to be a man (and a father) in society today. His honest reflections muse on the notion of ‘manliness’, attempting to adult and the societal gaps between mothers and fathers.

Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours by Ben Falcone

The author’s name is familiar because it’s hilarious actor, comedian, and director otherwise known as the air marshal from “Bridesmaids,” as the director of “The Boss,” or as the husband of comedy legend Melissa McCarthy. He also happens to be a dad. In this humorous and honest memoir, Falcone tells stories linking his adventures as the dad of two girls to his own childhood. We learn that his father Steve had a somewhat unconventional approach to parenting which may or may not have rubbed off on him. We’ll see this as a bonus for us, because without it we wouldn’t have this awesome read. As with any dad they often wonder how much of their parents comes through in their own style.  So if you’re a father, you’ll totally relate to this book.

If you can’t get hold of the real thing (hardback) head to or and enjoy.

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