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Getting away while staying in
I've recently found myself with a lot of extra time on my hands, as I’m sure is the case for many of us. Without the rigmarole of classes, extra-curriculars, social outings, or athletic activities, some of us have had to turn to new hobbies. While one of my favourite past-times is playing video games, I found I could only stare at a screen for so long each day. So, I decided to revive a past hobby that had fallen wayside during the school term and try a new one.
Exploring New Worlds
As an English major, I've always loved reading and found it a great way to escape from everyday life and live through the adventures of others - which has turned out to be exactly what I needed, at a time when the outside world feels extremely stressful and unstable. Reading is perfect to hunker down with during this lock-down to de-stress, stimulate your brain, and spend some of that new found free time. However, with so many books to choose from, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start. For this reason, I've compiled a list of three recommended books to help you get back into reading and take your mind off other things.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This is a book I picked up on a whim at a local book sale after having seen the 2011 movie adaptation and immediately fell in love with it. While the story is about the lives of African Americans that serve as maids, nannies, and other home staff in white households in Jackson, Mississippi around the beginning of the 1960s, it still manages to be funny and uplifting. It was able to both pull at my heart strings and make me laugh out loud. If you’re looking for a lighter book with historical flair then this is the one for you. And as always, the book was definitely much better than the movie!
The Way of Kings (Book One of the Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson
I stumbled across this book during my last co-op term after having finished A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin and craving more epic fantasy. For those uninitiated to epic fantasy, also known as high fantasy, it is a subgenre of fantasy that is far more epic in scope, setting, characters, plot, etc. I find epic fantasy extremely good to sink your teeth in during these times as the books are a far denser yet rewarding read where you can truly immerse yourself in a different world that feels alive. The story encompasses a variety of characters on the continent of Roshar with the main character in the first book being a soldier named Kaladin, who is fighting in a war between his people and another race called the Parshendi. Other main story lines include the Highprince Dalinar Kholin, who is investigating the origin of the war, and Shallan Davar, a young woman whose goal is to rescue her family from financial ruin. I found the characters to be dynamic and the magic system to be extremely unique. I'm eagerly awaiting Book 4 (Rhythm of War) which comes out in November.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This book is a true classic and arguably the birthplace for the modern science-fiction and horror genres. This well-known tale of the mad scientist and his creation is presented most poignantly and leaves readers contemplating the nuances of creation, artificial life, and how humans are often the true monsters. Fair warning, the book was originally published in 1818 and therefore the language and writing style can be a bit dense for some readers. However, I find it extremely rewarding nonetheless.
Stimulating Your Brain
The new hobby I decided to give a whirl on the recommendation of my family was podcasts. I previously never had the time as I was either busy with school work or had more active hobbies that required my full attention. However, to prevent myself from going stir-crazy and allow for some fresh air in this quarantine, I’ve found it very helpful to take a walk each morning. It makes me feel less confined and stretches out my muscles from otherwise being inactive most of the day. Since I had time then where I was just walking, I thought listening to podcasts would be a good way to stimulate my brain and learn new things. Below are some of the podcasts I listen to that I’d recommend if you’re looking to get into them.
Stuff You Missed in History Class
This podcast is exactly what it says on the tin. Each episode, the two hosts dig into some interesting, strange, or obscure aspect of history that most people were never taught or haven’t heard of. While this might seem dense at first, each topic is deconstructed into major themes and events so it doesn’t feel as stuffy as history sometimes can. The emphasis is always on the most memorable tidbits and things that could make you laugh - and always in easily digestible 20ish minute snippets! Some of the titles I’ve been listening to recently, can give you an idea of the range of episodes: "Harry Houdini, Master Mystifier", "History’s Greatest Battle Horses" and "What happened to the Romanovs?"
This American Life
This podcast feels very much like a catch-all documentary podcast with their hour-long programs that touch on a variety of subjects. The style is largely journalistic and often features essay-like content, structured around a central theme. Because of this, I feel the podcast really can suck you in and get you invested in all of these different stories. Some of the themes include families, other universes, uplifting stories, and the world of critique.
Spending extra time alone with my family has really got me thinking more about the human brain, especially considering a lot of the stress and panic around everything that’s been happening. This podcast digs deep into the human psyche to discuss different aspects of psychology, particularly around unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. Some of the interesting programs I’ve listened to were about lying, how we learn, what makes people commit crimes, and why we love surprises.
Regardless of the new or old hobbies you're engaging in, it’s important to find something you love to do, that’ll help you de-stress, and most importantly make isolation or quarantine seem less scary than it might be. If you're looking at getting back into either reading or podcasts then there are many great websites out there with awesome recommendations based on your interests. For reading, I recommend websites like Goodreads [external link] to find books similar to the ones you’ve enjoyed in the past and find some of the best top-rated books. For podcasts, you can find those almost anywhere, whether online or through apps on your phone. Google Podcasts is what I use. There’s definitely something out there for all of us!
Happy reading and listening!