Goranga | The Reader’s Digest during COVID-19
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The Reader’s Digest during COVID-19

As the noval pandemic COVID-19 continues to dominate the countries globally forcing the countries to implement preventive measures such as wearing masks, sanitizing self, regular washing of hands & off course social distancing. The safest & easiest method to limit the spread of the virus & ensure the well-being of your loved ones is Staying Indoors. This has indeed come as a blessing for many as now we have ample time to spend with our family, doing those daily chores that we always shelved to tomorrow & maybe developing a new hobby or enhancing a long-forgotten skill. If you are not one of those who are finding this lockdown comfortable, why not call out the hidden bibliophile in yourself and escape to faraway fantasy land.

 

Speaking about what stories to read, you can always pick-up something which interests you or something you can resonate with, Afterall our choices of books is actually a reflection of ourselves. There are some books which talk about the far forgotten lands, the long-lost times & the places that might seem too fictional but actually exist. These kind are enough to liftin your traveler’s spirit and transport you all together to a different world. And, since travelling is not really an option and is unlikely to be for a few days more after the lockdown is lifted, why not satiate your selves with a daily dose of these amazing books which will talk about places you have always yearned to visit.

 

Here are our Top 15 picks to read during this quarantine:

 

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

 

This beautiful book by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho became one of the widely translated international bestsellers of its time. Themed on a single message of pursuing one’s dreams and following what the heart desires most, the story is a complete journey of the protagonist, a young Andalusian shepherd boy from his home in Santiago to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian Desert to finally encountering the Alchemist. The young boy in the story was driven by a quenching thirst to search for worldly treasure that is as extravagant as any ever found until he meets the Alchemist. He learns to not only abide by what his heart desires but to also follow the different languages of omens. The book promotes positive thoughts and will definitely help in keeping the readers positive during the entire period of worldwide lockdown.

 

 

  1. Land of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

 

Land of Lost Borders is a chronicle of Haris’s odyssey. It presents the importance of breaking the boundaries we set for ourselves and the need to explore. The story narrates the journey Kate Harris took with her companion across Asia, tracing the ancient silk route. It is a travelogue infused with science, history and literature, but definitely gives a vivid description of the journey covered by the duo on their bikes. They cycle through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tibet, Nepal, and India. The storyline is definitely refreshing and inspiring, so tuck yourself into your seat and enjoy the adventurous journey across some of the planet’s least-forgiving territories.

 

  1. Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I have not visited by Judith Schalansky

 

The story is a beautiful account of the islands and managed to capture the imagination of the readers. Historic events and scientific reports played a perfect backdrop, she has created a story around each island – as captivating and fantastic as the other. The stories are a perfect blend of facts and fictions. Schalansky did well to lure readers into believing that the most adventurous journeys still take place in the mind, with one finger pointing at a map. Are you ready to find your own adventure? Where is your atlas?

 

 

  1. Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux

 

The story is a journey of discovery and rediscovery that will take you across some of the beautiful landscapes out there, alongwith areas which are considered dangerous and life-threatening. It speaks about a trip which is all about chance encounters, where departure and arrival times are irrelevant, and contentment is achieved at some of the most unexpected places.

 

  1. Unlikely Destinations: The LP Story by Maureen and Tony Wheeler

 

It is a personal travel experience of the duo, Maureen and Tony Wheeler who arrived in Australia in 1973 with just 27 cents in their pockets and lived on to create one of the largest travel guidebook and digital media publishing house in the world. In the year 1973, the couple embarked on a journey together in a 10-year-old Austin minivan with a vague notion of heading to India. But, their quest took them places across Istanbul, Tehran, Kabul, Bangkok, and Bali. From Bali, they got hired as crews on a sailboat which bought them to Australia. “The book is a nostalgic visit back to a time when the world lived in relative peace and when borders everywhere were open, Bali and Bangkok before the tourism boom, Ayer’s Rock when you could still climb it, Darwin before the cyclone, Flores before a tsunami wiped it off the map, Sri Lanka when there were still nude traveller’s beaches, Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions before China opened its gates”. The book is an inspiration, the ultimate Holy Grail for all wannabe travellers.

 

 

 

  1. The Lost City of Z by David Grann

 

This is based on a real story of a British explorer, Colonel Percy Fawcett and his son who ventured out into the deep forest of the Amazon in the quest for an ancient lost civilization. Between 1906 and 1924, the colonel took atleast seven expeditions to South America desperately following his instincts to discover the lost land. Soon his ambition became an obsession. Unfortunately, the father-son duo went missing in the year of 1925. The report says he did return to Brazil about that time but was never heard from again. Later, the novel was made into a film featuring Rober Pattinson and Charlie Hunnam who played the role of Fawcett.

 

However, the story narrates his many experiences and dangerous encounters during his navigations across the Amazon. It is truly an adventure-filled thriller which guarantees a gripping experience as you shuffle through the pages.

 

  1. The Beach by Alex Garland

 

Set in the beautiful country of Thailand, the story is the journey of a young backpacker and two others who are on the quest for a legendary, idyllic and isolated proverbial Garden of Eden, an unspoilt island and beach paradise untouched by tourists. They end up discovering the mystical paradise but it turns out to be less than perfect. The moment the character slowly embraces the simple island life, his paradise is infiltrated by anonymous enemies. The story brings forth a very important message and that is man’s unfailing ability to spoil, pollute and destroy such paradises the moment he eyes them. This bestseller was later featured on the silver screen with veteran actors like Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead antagonist. The film was shot in Koh Phi Phi island in Thailand but it failed to leave a mark in the box office. Nevertheless, the novel is a great read filled with mysteries and adventures. Also, the journey is vividly described in words that greatly reflected the beauty of Thailand and its profound beaches.

 

  1. Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

 

Mark Adams who spent half his life editing adventure and travel magazines chose to investigate the allegations made by the press against the young Yale professor who claimed to have discovered the citadel of Machu Picchu after climbing the Andes mountains of Peru. His expedition took him across the perilous path to Machu Pichu through some of the gorgeous and historic landscapes in Peru itself. He traveled through the Inca capital of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba. Finally, his quest ended on his arrival at an undiscovered kingdom populated by brilliant and eccentric characters that have continued to baffle scientists, archaeologists and others. They still have the same question unanswered though, What was Machu Pichu?

 

 

  1. The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden

 

This is the first English novel by a woman from Bhutan that talks about the various hardships the story’s main protagonist, Tsomo, an uneducated woman goes through. Some chapters describe the period that follows a few years after Chinese suppression in Tibet. Her story takes readers on a long journey through Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal and even India. A Hindu marriage ritual is vividly described in the novel as well. The protagonist’s journey through her life is quite intriguing to read and the places she passes are vividly described in words to paint a perfect picture of the picturesque countries mentioned in the novel.

 

  1. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

 

“This is a gripping yet despairing story of love and tradition” set in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. The story described the simple country life vividly and goes on to explain how exciting a ranch life sounds like. The story revolves around the main protagonist Tita and her journey through life and beyond to find her rightful place alongside Pedro, her lover. The novelist did spare more than a few words to describe the picturesque countryside of Mexico and the rustic ranch life, also a few scenes are based in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Esquivel’s novel is very different from most books. Her novel usually incorporates recipes into the book in order to tell a story. These recipes, however, are not mere formulas, but they are memories and traditions being passed down from generation to generation. Like Water for Chocolate has a new recipe mentioned at the beginning of each chapter and describes the tradition following it. Food plays a dominant role in the novel, as it does in Mexican culture.

 

So besides gaining an interesting insight into Mexican culture and enjoying the vivid descriptions of the picturesque countryside, the plot is intriguing, with lots of twists and turns to keep the readers rooted till the last page.

 

  1. Stone Tree by Gyrõir Elíasson

 

It is often said that Gyrðir Elíasson’s stories take us out of ourselves. Stone Tree is based mostly on the lonely western shores of Iceland, covering the vast mountain ranges of barren lava fields. The picturesque locations are aptly described that help the readers get a clear picture in their mind about the country which is as real as the real picture is. The storyline covers quite a number of places. For instances, the readers are made to follow a Boston ornithologist, speeding through the landscape in a four-by-four chasing Arctic Terns, a schoolboy who is trying to relocate to the northernmost town of Siglufjördur to compete in a chess tournament, a husband packs his wife off to visit her aunt in Sweden. Almost every story talks about people taking leave of their normal lives in order to make their dreams more seriously.

 

But in the end, as Elíasson writes, ‘all dreams are joined at the edges, like the squares in a patchwork quilt.’

 

  1. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

 

Now, this is a 2000 bestselling mystery-thriller that centers around a single character, Professor Langdon and his journey to the Vatican City to unveil a powerful antagonist towards the end of the novel dramatically.  Conspiracies of secret societies, a single-day time frame, and the Catholic Church, ancient history, architecture, and symbology are heavily referenced throughout the book, making it a gripping and most-engaging thriller of the decade. Dan Brown, the novelist, did justice by bringing the Vatican City alongwith its many sculptures, St. Peter’s Basilica, the powerful role played by the Swiss Guards, the secrecy of the archives and truth behind the Illuminati are vividly bought to life. Each chapter ends with a surprise and each new chapter opens with a fresh revelation that keeps you glued to your spot. You can, however, switch from the novel to the film which has aptly captured the same impact the novel did to its readers. And, Tom Hank’s character as Professor Langdon is praiseworthy.

 

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

 

This is the first novel written by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini that was published in 2003 by Riverhead Books and soon became a bestseller after being printed in paperback and was popularized in book clubs. It was considered a number-one New York Times bestseller for over two years and had over seven million copies sold in the United States.

The Kite Runner basically narrates the story of a young boy named Amir who hailed from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul and was the closest friend of Hassan. The story is set against the backdrop of tumultuous conditions that were common in Afghanistan back then. The plot aptly brings out the turn of events right from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime. The country is vividly put in words in the story to paint a clear picture of the struggles and sufferings the Afghanis suffered during those trying times.

However, Hosseini has stated that he considers The Kite Runner is a simple father-son story that emphasizes the familial aspects of the narrative. This element was continued in his later works. The writer has brought to light the two different sides of Afghanistan, before and after the war, beautifully. However, the tragic turn of events led to the end of Amir and Hassan’s friendship. However, redemption awaits Amir as in the latter half of the book, he attempts to atone for this transgression by rescuing Hassan’s son two decades later.

This is truly a masterpiece that will make you smile, laugh or simply cry but will definitely make you strong enough to survive the endless lockdown in the wake of the pandemic. So, try completing such beautiful pieces of work and explore the countries without leaving the comfort of your house.

 

 

  1. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

 

Eric Weiner, initially, worked as a foreign correspondent, reporting from discontented locales such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Indonesia. During his tenure, he came across unhappy people living in profoundly unstable states. So Weiner undertook a year’s research to travel the globe in the quest for supposedly  “unheralded happy places.” And, his journey ended in this book which has equal parts filled with funny elements to laugh about and the other part is speaking all about philosophy.

Apparently, the happiest places on earth include, somewhat unexpectedly, Iceland, Bhutan, and India, according to him. Weiner also paid a brief visit to the country which is mostly deemed as the most malcontent, Moldova, and finds real merit in the claim.

But the question remains large in the paragraphs and chapters, “what makes people happy? Is it the freedom of the West or the myriad restrictions of Singapore? The simple ashrams of India or the glittering shopping malls of Qatar?”

From the youthful drunkenness of Iceland to the despond of Slough, a sad but resilient town in Heathrow’s flight path, Weiner offers profound observations about the way people relate to circumstance and fate.

 

The novel is both revealing and inspirational which covers four continents, each vividly described as the other. But, the book, without much of a direct hint, leaves behind for the readers, the “geography of bliss”, meaning it is wherever they happen to find themselves while reading it.

 

  1. Wind from the Carolinas by Robert Wilder

 

This is a 1964 novel which is based on the history of a Bahamas family of American Loyalists. The plot is set against the background of the exotic Bahama islands. Despite the fact that this is a fine art of fiction, but the plot does have significance in the history of the Bahamas and narrates the struggles of the early settlers in the Bahama Islands. The story describes how wealthy, aristocratic families from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia who fled the South for the Bahamas, following the American Revolution. They remained here loyal to England, abandoning their plantations for the islands. In these exotic islands, did they establish their new dynasties, and were rewarded by the Crown rewarded for their loyalty, with huge grants of land.

 

This novel is definitely worthy of your time and will take you on a rough voyage across the oceans to the beautiful island paradise called the Bahamas. The turn of events and the many struggles of these foreign settlers are quite gripping and dramatic, to say the least.

 

BONUS THROW-IN

If you have kids at home who are all grumpy from the long quarantine period, why not readout some chapters from the amazing The Adventures of Tintin to lighten their mood & get them all excited for maybe an adventure of their own ?

 

The entire bundle of comics on the Adventures of Tintin is truly refreshing and entertaining at the same time. Each and every book speaks about the daring escapades, the endless challenges, and surprising turns of events as Tintin, the protagonist, and his teammates, snowy the dog, Captain Haddock, and the detective-duo, Thompson and Thompson encounter while solving various cases. They travel the world, from Belgium, Mexico to the city of Pharaohs, to chase assassins and other criminals while learning a thing or two during their journey. The character of Bianca Castafiore adds a refreshing tone to the thrilling adventures of Tintin and Captain Haddock.

 

Till then, Stay Home, Stay Safe!

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