One of the first things to go in a time of stress like ours is concentration. We know so little about the coronavirus: whether we will get it and how many people we know will, how serious the disease will be if we do, how long schools and businesses will be closed, the long-term effect on the economy — not to mention the possibility of the virus’s return at some later stage. With all these uncertainties, known unknowns and unknown unknowns, buzzing about in our heads the prospect of sitting down to read a book seems … remote, alien, impossible. And yet all of us could use a vacation from our anxieties, something to occupy our minds. My suggestion: Take some time to read short stories and essays.
Many of the finest short stories ever written are available for free at Project Gutenberg:
- Anton Chekhov
- M. R. James (the greatest of writers of ghost stories)
- Rudyard Kipling
- Katherine Mansfield
- E. F. Benson (another fine writer of scary tales)
- Saki (the master of the twist ending)
- Oscar Wilde
And then if you want to turn to essays:
- The incomparable Charles Lamb
- Robert Louis Stevenson (much neglected as an essayist)
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- G. K. Chesterton
That’s just selecting from the freebies! Maybe I’ll have another post later on things you’d actually need to buy.