Life Advice for Book Lovers: Reading for the Reclusive
Book Recommendations for the Troubled Soul
Welcome to Life Advice for Book Lovers, Lit Hub’s advice column. You tell me what’s eating you in an email to email@example.com and I’ll tell you what you should read next.
I’ve recently moved into a new neighborhood, into an apartment by myself. My friends and family see it is as independent, but they’re not really around, and the truth is I’m lonely.
I don’t know when I became such a sad, anti-social person. Maybe it has something to do with the pandemic? (It definitely has something to do with the pandemic.) I used to like going out and these days, I barely leave my apartment. I work from home. I want to want to go out, I think. But the world is a scary place! I’m afraid I’m going to become a recluse. Or, at least, someone with social anxiety. What do I do?
Of course I don’t expect a book to cure me of this, but if you have any suggestions for reading material, I’m here.
Dear Reclusive Reader,
As I’m writing this, I’m also doing a happy dance because my evening plans were just cancelled, so trust me when I say I understand not wanting to leave the house or see anyone or do anything. And, yes, absolutely, the world is a scary place. There are some days when you wake up and you read the news or look at the gray sky, and you just want to go back to bed. Hell, there are some days when you wake up and you just want to go back to the womb. What I’m getting at: you’re so not alone in this isolated feeling.
I heard about this study once that said the vast majority of New Yorkers feel like their day is improved by a random conversation with someone on the subway, but less than 20 percent of people would actually be willing to initiate such an interaction. I’m not sure where in this hectic world you are, but I think we can extrapolate. It’s so easy to be stuck in our own little individual cones of silence and forget that most of the time people are less scary than we make them out to be in our minds.
So, here’s what I would recommend: you make a little trip over to your local independent bookstore. (Hopefully it’s not too much of a trek!) Booksellers are notoriously delightful people, often with very good book recommendations. Strike up a little low-stakes conversation (no pressure!), and see how it goes.
And then, while you’re there, maybe pick up Kathleen Alcott’s Infinite Home, a very good novel that dissects (as the title implies) our ideas of home. It takes place in a Brooklyn brownstone, which a nice elderly woman rents out to a ragtag group of tenants. The woman, Edith, is losing her memory, though. And the arrival of her greedy son threatens evictions and the loss of the lives they have grown comfortable with.
Of course, they must band together to save their home—but not in a cheesy can-we-fix-it-yes-we-can way. More importantly: the characters in these pages will definitely prove to be good company. They are so singular in their struggles and passions; they feel whole, and in this way, maybe you, reader, might feel seen. There’s a brother and sister who have grown dependent on one another. An artist recovering from a stroke. There’s even a woman who’s afraid to leave her apartment. (She’s my favorite.)