What to read when you’re sick in bed

Cover of Not Forgetting the WhaleEveryone’s sick this winter. Even the people who had the flu jab get this lurgy that lingers, sometimes for weeks. You’re bedridden, and so far your eyesight is the only unaffected part of your body. It’s time to read! And don’t wimp out here – not just magazines. Real books.

A handsome young man washes up on the English coastline at a small coastal village. Did I mention that he is naked? He is escaping what he believes will be a catastrophic collapse of world economies because of a flu epidemic. Are you hooked yet? The book is John Ironmonger’s Not Forgetting the Whale. It comes with a WARNING: This book may restore your faith in human nature. It’s as good as a tonic.

Cover of Headhunters on my DoorstepIt’s also cold and wintry right now, so maybe you’d prefer a tropical read. J. Maarten Troost has a jolly romp of a read in Headhunters on My Doorstep. The author retraces the travels of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island travels. He tackles his problems with addiction and his insights into island life with humour and empathy. Staying within the broad sweep of the theme of epidemics here, the book is not without its references to all the plagues and pestilences that Western traveller’s visited upon Pacific Islanders. Yet you will laugh out loud. You will start to envisage a life beyond your sick bed. You will have Tropical Island fantasies without (I hope) any accompanying delirium.

Cover of PlagueFinally – a bit of hair of the dog. Why not use this time to put your little flu bout in perspective. Time for some Black Death reading. The best book I have ever read on this plague is an older book: A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. It is one of those touchstone books to which many other authors make reference. But Plague by Wendy Orent is like a terrifying historical whodunnit.

“Plague is a terrifying mystery. In the Middle Ages, it wiped out 40 million people – 40 percent of the total population in Europe. Seven hundred years earlier, the Justinian Plague destroyed the Byzantine Empire and ushered in the Middle Ages. The plague of London in the seventeenth century killed more than 1,000 people a day. In the early twentieth century, plague again swept Asia, taking the lives of 12 million in India alone.” “Even more frightening is what it could do to us in the near future…”

Reading this book will put your flu in perspective. Of course you may never sleep again, but that is another topic entirely!

4 thoughts on “What to read when you’re sick in bed

  1. Laraine 20 July 2015 / 2:28 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations, Roberta. I haven’t had flu for at least 16 years (don’t have flu shots) but it lasted for nearly three weeks and I ached so badly my nice soft bed felt like a sheet of granite. Panadeine took care of the pain (well, most of it) and DWJ’s Dogsbody kept my mind off my woes for so many hours it remains my favourite DWJ. Husband had the same flu and was sick the same amount of time despite his free flu shot.

  2. Juliet 20 July 2015 / 3:33 pm

    By coincidence my latest blog is on this very subject, well close to it as it’s about how to turn flu into a time of nurturing rest. Reading is perfect for such times, and many of my blog readers endorse this; however I take issue with your reading recommendations. I recommend a gentle approach which includes screening out the cares of the world and disturbing subjects. Having the flu is an opportunity to experience sanctuary and true rest.
    I wonder what others think? My blog is at http://www.julietbatten.co.nz/three-levels-of-rest/

    • robertafsmith 20 July 2015 / 5:57 pm

      HaHa, yes, I was pushing the boat out a bit with my suggestions here! Although the first two recommendations are actually quite gentle and entertaining). Your blog is beautiful, but The Sound of One Snail Eating made me want to scream at a high pitch when I was reading it. Different strokes for different folks.

      • Juliet 20 July 2015 / 6:45 pm

        How interesting. What was it about the snail book that got to you?

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