solamen miseris socios habuisse doláis   (misery loves company)

  Mephistopheles in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus


“There is no way I’m going back to Mexico. I can’t stand to be in a country that is more surrealist than my paintings”.  Salvadore Dali


At Think in the Morning we’ve tried to be advocates for reading books, not only because we’ve finally been able to write one but because we truly believe that reading is helpful in many ways.  A couple of previous blogs laid out our thoughts on this.

JP’s Books

Reading A Little Bit At A Time

As it turns out, the benefits of reading can be even greater during a pandemic.  Many people today have that feeling of a deer caught in the headlights.  I hear words like surreal, dreamlike, suspended, unreal, absurd, mysterious, and hallucinatory to describe what many feel today as they find themselves in this brave new world of sheltering in place, mask wearing, and constant hand washing. Most of all I sense a loneliness. Reading can help with this in many ways.

We’ve been on a mission to whet your appetite by reviewing a number of books recently.  Some are directly related to an earlier time of pandemic in the hope that history might provide a sense of what life was like for others who experienced some of what we are experiencing now.  Others are just books we’ve enjoyed recently.

The Last Town On Earth: A Recent Novel on the 1918 Pandemic

The 1918 Pandemic As Seen By John O’Hara

Look Homeward Angel and The 1918 Pandemic

The 1918 Pandemic And Willa Cather’s One Of Ours

William Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows

Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Katherine Anne Porter’s Classic Story of the 1918 Pandemic

Recently the New York Times in The Times Magazine published 29 new short stories in an attempt to encourage reading in the time of COVID.



“When reality is surreal, only fiction can make sense of it.” So begins the latest project from The Times Magazine: an entire issue devoted to new short stories written by 29 authors. There’s fiction written during quarantine by Margaret Atwood, Tommy Orange, David Mitchell and Yiyun Li, among others. If you’re unsure of where to begin, there’s a “surprise me” wild card located on the bottom right of the home page that’ll select a story for you.

Art reflects life.  It is not an instruction manual but a mirror. 

Art, she thought, is transformation, not representation.  Art transforms reality into the exotic and gives it back to us in the only way that’s meaningful.   Behind the Locked Door

Fiction helps the reader look at the world in new ways by making it both larger and smaller, larger in that it adds new characters and stories, smaller in that it abstracts from a reality that may be too frightening or complex to understand on its own.

Equally important, buying and reading books helps independent bookstores and authors to survive during a very difficult and emotional time.  What’s in it for you?  Books allow you some control over where you direct your attention, how you spend our time and even how you feel.

We will close with a list of articles for further reading.  They provide further comments and several books to choose from.


Articles and Book Lists

Katherine Shwetz, Apocalyptic Fiction Helps Us Deal With The Anxiety Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

Christian de Cock, Fiction Can Help Us Understand Ourselves During the Coronavirus Crisis

The importance of books as we struggle with COVID-19

Elena Nicolaou, Books Are My Secret For Fighting Coronavirus

Books to Read While Social Distancing During Coronavirus | Time

Rob Latham, Zones of Possibility: Science Fiction and the Coronavirus