Books to Read in the Dark
There may be one small upside to the power going out. You can finally sit down and read the books you've been studiously ignoring.
There may be one small upside to the power going out, as it has been in parts of New York City, D.C., Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Long Island, and other East Coast cities, with the arrival of Sandy. You can finally sit down and read the books you've been ignoring in favor of HBO series and movies and catching up with the news and staying on top of Twitter. You can, quite literally, curl up with a good book—an act especially cozy given what's happening outside. Get a blanket, light a candle, make an evening of it. Add some wine and if there is more than one of you in your hurricane hideout, you can even read to each other, if that suits your fancy. But what should you read? Since we wouldn't suggest that you go outside and try to find a book right now (libraries and bookstores are closed, and even if they weren't, you should stay inside!), here are a few categories of reading you're likely to have just sitting around your book-laden abode, if and when you decide to look up from the computer, regardless of whatever type of reader you purport to be.
Scary books that will make Sandy seem less scary. On Friday we listed some of the favorite Halloween-time reads of some writers and readers we respect the opinion of immensely. Try any of those, equally effective in times of snor'easterncane, we'd dare say.
Your favorite books from childhood (or beyond). There is little to read that's cozier in feel than a book you've already read and loved. May we suggest From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? Or, go contemporary. Y.A. books in general (old or new) tend to reach out and grab you without the sort of intellectual distance that you get in fancy books for adults. So, it may be time to reread The Hunger Games trilogy, Harry Potter, or even—egad—Twilight. Whatever is compulsively engaging and addictive and will get you through the night, no judgments. Pride and Prejudice is a fantastic, reliable comfort read. Maybe it's time to re-read Donna Tartt's A Secret History, Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Salinger's Nine Stories, Beverly Cleary's The Luckiest Girl, or—this list would not be complete without my favorite re-readable of all time, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. See our re-readables list for more.
Books about the weather. Thematically appropriate tomes, like those listed by Flavorpill's Emily Temple in her recent list of stormy reads: Bleak House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and, obviously, The Perfect Storm, as well as others, seem especially apropos. The Ice Storm? Unless those topical books are a little too much, in which case we'd suggest similarly weather-extreme tomes of a different character. Like, maybe, To Build a Fire, or, hey, even Judy Blume's Summer Sisters, to take you back to the warm, safe beach, in another time. Be creative! The Long, Hot Summer?
Books that make you feel better because what their characters go through is far more harrowing and/or prolonged and/or unpleasant than your current situation. These are your perspective reads. Pick up something about the war—pick a war, any war. Gone With the Wind, The Book Thief, The Things They Carried, Hiroshima. True stories are good here, but fiction can work, too. Watership Down, maybe? A bit lighter: Try one of my personal comfort read favorites: Sue Grafton's A is for Alibi series of Kinsey Milhone detective stories. Or, completely different and absolutely heartbreaking but wonderful, in Y.A., John Green's fantastic The Fault in Our Stars cannot fail to give you a bit of perspective.
Books that are funny. Try Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, Tina Fey's Bossypants, Joshua Ferris's And Then We Came to the End (which amused me endlessly), your favorite collection of David Sedaris essays ... whatever you personally consider hilarious, whether it's earnestly or ironically so. Though, in fairness, ironic humor doesn't get you very far in an epic storm. Read what you like. There's no time for the hurricane hate read.
The Unread. These are the books that you've been piling up on your nightstands or bookshelves or wherever and haven't read yet because you just haven't had time. You never have time! Still, they're the ones you really want to pay attention to, and yet, are always postponing opening because there are always other pressing things to do. The ones you've been saving for a special moment. For me, that's The Receptionist (by Janet Groth, receptionist at the New Yorker for two decades beginning in 1957); Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot; and the upcoming Y.A. book, Colin Fischer. See also: All of your old New Yorkers you've been saving for the proverbial "rainy day," the Complete Pelican Shakespeare, Tolstoy's War and Peace, Amor Towles' Rules of Civility. Have 'em and haven't read 'em yet? Today's the day; tonight's the night; the special moment is now.
The Unfinished. If you've already gotten it started, pick up where you left off and go. Then move on up the list and repeat. If the power stays on, you'll just feel really great that you spent your hurricane time doing something worthwhile instead of simply watching the endless loop of hurricane news coverage and wincing at those poor weatherpeople set out into the waves to tell us we're in the midst of a "very bad" storm.
When you get back online, tell us what you read.