The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated April 23, 2020 as World Book Day and Copyright Day – an occasion to celebrate authors, books and a love of reading for people of all ages.
It’s a particularly memorable World Book Day being in the midst of a global pandemic, during which many are turning to books as a means of relaxation, an antidote to boredom, or perhaps as an imaginative escape from the confines of one’s home.
American author and journalist Anna Quindlen wrote in her book How Reading Changed My Life: “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” With this sentiment in mind, we asked three Sheridan professors teaching in our Honours Bachelor of Creative Writing and Publishing (CW&P) program to share titles of ‘books to escape with’.
Here’s what they recommend:
Mahak Jain, Professor of Creative Writing
Recommendations: Bunny by Mona Awad, The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty and Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
I recommend three books to escape the concerns of our present circumstances. First, Bunny by Mona Awad, a literary horror page-turner. Who knew that bunnies and creative writing programs could be so creepy? The book is a delicious cross between Mean Girls and the fantastical horror of Kelly Link. Second, if you want to escape into a different world entirely, I recommend The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty, an absorbing adult fantasy set in a world of dangerous djinn warriors, magical carpets, and political intrigue. The book is the first in a trilogy so you can really sink in. Lastly, take a look at Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, which is about exactly what it sounds like. The book takes place during the US occupation of Baghdad and manages to be an absurdist fable and a moral allegory while also providing a view into the cruelty of war.
Owen Percy, Professor of Literary Studies
Recommendation: An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
If you haven’t had the chance, this seems like the perfect time to pick up a copy of Sheridan professor (and CW&P fiction doyenne) Thea Lim’s celebrated 2018 novel An Ocean of Minutes. Be warned, though, it’s a bit on-the-nose: A global flu pandemic takes hold of America, sending shockwaves through the systems and institutions that govern the lives of its citizens. When Frank falls ill, his girlfriend Penny makes a strategic decision to try and save him by travelling ahead in time in to salvage a version of their current happiness together. Uncanny as it reads now, this is a novel with much to teach us about courage, resilience, and yearning for a very recent past to which we know we may never fully return.
Robyn Read, Professor of Writing and Publishing
Recommendation: We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
With Earth Day and World Book Day in the same week, my recommendation is We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer, his second book of nonfiction, responding to our “all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future.” It might not seem like an escape — to switch focus from one crisis to another — but it is motivating to think how if we came together to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, this proves we can join efforts to enact another global change, and make another extraordinary and urgently needed impact in the fight against climate change. And most of the essays contained in the collection are short enough to read over breakfast!
Happy reading! Let us know in the comments what you’re reading these days.
Story written by Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan in collaboration with Professors Mahak Jain, Owen Percy and Robyn Read.