Four Books to Read if You’re Dead Inside
Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again– about 2020. I know things happen for a reason, but what possible reason could the universe have for cursing us with the year of 2020? However, despite the fact that this year was not conducive to achieving goals, all was not lost for me. For the first time in years, I finally hit my reading goal for the year. It doesn’t seem like much when compared to losing the quarantine 15, landing a dream job, or traveling the world—all of which were made difficult, if not impossible, by COVID-19. So reaching this goal was a substantial victory.
I read some books that I hated, some that I loved, and some in the middle. This year I was looking for novels that would elicit intense emotions and thus immerse me into the plots. So strap in, because with all the emotional trauma coming your way, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
- The Silent Patient
I am sucker for psychological thrillers, and the fact that the genre is growing like a weed right now makes me giddy. It’s my guilty pleasure. But the best psychological thriller I read this year was The Silent Patient.
The debut novel of author Alex Michaelides, received rave reviews, and for good reason—the premise being intriguing and the plot twist being riveting. After murdering her husband, Alicia Berenson captures the imagination and attention of the public. Being a famous painter, who is married to a prominent fashion photographer (and who also killed said fashion photographer), many people try to speculate the motive behind her heinous actions. However, none are confirmed as Alicia spends years after the crime in complete silence, never speaking a word to explain or defend herself.
The book has a dual timeline, meaning it switches between the past and present. It also switches between two character’s narratives– Alicia herself, and criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber, who is determined to uncover her motives. By using the tried and true unreliable narrator trope in combination with the discombobulating plot structure, the truth is elusive, unanticipated, and ominous.
- The Road
First word that comes to mind: devastating. Written by Cormac McCarthy, it is a masterpiece in how it portrays the trials of human suffering, and the reasons as to why humans will continually endure them. Following a father and young son as they trek across the country in a post-apocalyptic world, the book is sure to leave you feeling desolate, maybe even depressed. But in a world where everything wants to kill you and any act of human kindness is thousands of miles away, hope can still be found in the bond between father and son. The father does everything and anything to protect his son, and on multiple occasions saves him from peril and certain death. But what’s particularly beautiful is that, in his own way, the son saves the father too, as he is a physical manifestation of the will to live.
Stylistically, the book is unique in that it is written in third person narration. An interesting choice for a book that is meant to cause strong emotional attachment to the characters, and if the execution hadn’t been so excellent, the book might have flopped and been a disappointing, boring read. But the author lets the plot speak for itself and uses it as leverage to force you into the minds of the characters. Most importantly, it makes you consider life in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t.
- Wuthering Heights
I’m already biased when it comes to any book written by the Brontë sisters, because they’re just as angsty, temperamental, and existential as I am.
Emily Brontë tells a tale as old as time: the proverbially bad boy. Have you ever been torn between a guy who respects you, wants the best for you, and is just the overall correct choice for you, and a guy who is dark, brooding, and mysterious but is also an obviously bad idea? Wuthering Heights is like that, but the Victorian-era version.
The interesting thing about this book is that it is a story within a story—storyception. The original narrator is a man named Lockwood who is currently renting and residing in a manor named Thrushcross Grange. After meeting the coarse landlord of the house, Heathcliff, Lockwood becomes exceedingly curious about this prickly character and how he came to preside over both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, an impressive, but daunting manor some ways away from The Grange. Through accounts such as diary entries and narrations told by a servant who has served in both houses, you piece together the lives of the people who used to reside in the houses and how their existence became irreparably intertwined, damaged, or ended, all thanks to Heathcliff. This last part is my own opinion, as I happen to despise Heathcliff, but read the book yourself and come to your own conclusion.
- Never Let Me Go
If I’m being honest, it took awhile for me to get into this one. The novel follows the lives of students at the respectable boarding school of Hailsham from their adolescence, to adulthood, and in some cases, to their demise. It starts off innocent enough, but as they grow older, the students begin to understand that something is amiss. Why are they never able to leave the school? Why are their caretakers so strict and careful of their wellbeing? Why are they considered to be so important and special? The answer is grim, unsettling, and thought-provoking.
It’s not a novel with a clear adversary. There is no antagonist wreaking havoc on the lives of the characters, rather the foe is life itself. Much like how it is in the real world. But it’s also not a tragedy. It’s a love story. Again, not with any one character, but with life.
This book will make you feel simultaneously inspired, bewildered, and helpless, and just as the characters are swept into a story that they seem to have no control of, you will be too. But, considering that it is a lot like real life, it will make you remember that it’s not always about the destination, but the journey. Cliche, I know. But if you already know how it concludes before you start, you’ll forget that everything that happens along the way is just as important as how it ends.
Anyone who loves reading understands the euphoria that comes with being immersed in a book which stimulates your imagination and transports you to a different place, time, or universe. And considering real travel is out of the question for the foreseeable future, this is the perfect time to get lost in a good book, and live vicariously through it.