Covid-19: Books to read during the lockdown
The nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 has left many feeling anxious. One of the ways to cope with anxiety has seen South Africans taking to binge reading to help lower their stress levels.
BookTuber (a Youtube video blogger who discusses and reviews books) Vuyiswa Vena (34) said with South African bookstores closed for the lockdown, it has becomes difficult to suggest which books to read as people won’t be able to access them.
“Literature provides escapism during times like these. I would suggest readers go for books that can distract them. Go for an adventure, something which is not similar to what you're going through right now. It is time for people to pick up a lot of fiction, a lot of happy fiction at that. While bookstores aren't operating, people can read eBooks as those are available,” she said.
Vena, who's started a podcast series, recommends five South African authors worth reading during this time.
"In this week’s episode of my podcast, I recommend five South African authors that are worth spending your time on during lockdown. They are Zakes Mda, Cynthia Jele, Nthikeng Mohlele, Mohale Mashigo, and John Maxwell Coetzee. They all reflect different experiences in their writing, and give you something to think about,” she added.
The mother of two who works in the PR space said she reads to her two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son every chance she gets during this time.
“If you are a parent, starting a tradition of reading to your kids can be helpful at times like these. This allows you to get into a certain character, or a certain mood, to help you forget the reality you're in for a moment. It also keeps your kids entertained. I read to my children whenever I get the chance. I love it, and so do they.”
Another avid reader and an aspiring writer Puleng Hopper, who works in financial services sector, said she predominantly supports African literature.
Vuvu Vena suggest five South African authors including novelist, poet and playwrite Zanemvula “Zakes“ Mda Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/ African News Agency (ANA)
Hopper said, fortunately, there are no travel restrictions and possible infections with travel through books, which are an effective escape during the worrisome and uncertain coronavirus period.
“I would suggest short stories and or articles. These are ideal in that, completing a full story in a short period guarantees instant and immediate gratification, in a time where tomorrow may not come.
“Keep it light, short and sweet. Mainly, humour wrapped in serious issues of race, patriarchy, politics, and socio-economical. (Siphiwo) Mahala, (Fred) Khumalo, and (Lauretta) Ngcobo, give us a dose of humour an essential coping mechanism,” said Hopper, who went on to suggest the following books.
The Will To Die by Can Themba (Creda Press 1972), a classic set in Sophiatown by the late Drum writer. Tjieng Tjang Tjerries ( Modjaji Books 2016), fresh stories and new voice from the coloured community and will transport the reader to the fishing community of Gansbaai. Talk Of The Town by Fred Khumalo (Kwela 2019), a collection of short stories that will get the reader giggling. If You Keep Digging by Keketso Mopai (BlackBird Books 2019), a brave, authentic voice that depicts complexities of life. Eat, Drink & Blame The Ancestors by Ndumiso Ngcobo (Times Media 2014), a collection of entertaining articles that will keep you laughing.
Various publishing houses said they were significantly affected by the state of disaster and the regulations to suspend gatherings. Penguin Random House South Africa’s Steve Connolly said book sales declined notably due to the pandemic.
“In the two days before the lockdown some book stores experienced a surge, but obviously since the lockdown, there have been no physical book sales. We only receive eBook sales data for two months in arrears, so it's impossible to say if eBook sales are growing, but they probably are.”
“We suspended all printing when the lockdown began but have continued with our publishing programme, getting all scheduled titles print-ready. When the situation is clearer we will reschedule the events,” said Connolly.
“Our bookshops in South Africa are a vital part of our society. As soon as the lockdown is over, they will be up and running, creating excitement and entertainment, having launches and author discussions,” he added. $
Jacana Media said it is sending eBook offers from their extensive catalogue of titles.
“There is something here for everyone, from fiction and memoir to natural history and political biographies. We hope our readers enjoy what we have curated for them, so keep an eye on our mailers and also our social media platforms. Readers can purchase eBooks on Amazon," said publicist Janine Daniel.