I don't know about you all, but I was nearly driven insane trying to find things to do after the first few weeks of quarantine. Thankfully, I came across a veritable treasure trove of books while I was rummaging around the house.
Most of these books fall under the category of "best read upon reaching adulthood rather than during a reading assignment for high school." Don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against reading literature for an academic requirement. It's just that some books --- particularly modern-day classics -- need a certain degree of real-world jadedness for a reader to appreciate them better.
Well, at least for those born in the 20th and 21st century.
A good analogy would be The Simpsons (especially the ones from the early nineties). I utterly enjoyed watching the show as a kid, but there were loads of jokes that definitely went over my head. Thanks to the quarantine, I revisited past episodes and found plenty of hilarious, for-the-grownups jokes. I guess, as an adult, you finally get to see the humor meant for those who have tasted life measured in decades beyond youthful years.
I'm trying to say that plenty of truths and not-so-hidden meanings can only truly reveal themselves to those looking through a lens of maturity.
I want to share with you one of these books that I consider "a must-read in this lifetime." Some of you may have already read it in the past, or like me, haven't had the chance to do so before. But trust me, it's akin to visiting a dear old friend that you haven't seen for a long time or discovering a new one that you'll treasure for life.
So without any further ado, here it goes, my favorite book I read during COVID. Don't worry; I'll be sure not to include any spoilers.
The Grapes of Wrath
Imagine that you're living a quiet and peaceful life of simple contentment. You've got a decent job and a decent home. You also own a certain amount of possessions -- not much, but they make you happy -- and all these are enough for relative bliss. Oh, and you also have a beloved dog named Valentino, who adores you to pieces and will stay by your side no matter what.
Suddenly there's an economic recession, and you get laid off from work as a result. Then, with only a few days notice, your landlord decides to evict you since you won't be able to pay rent. As you sit by the curb with your worldly possessions (that the city sanitation services are going to incinerate if you leave them there unattended, by the way), wondering how in the world you're going to bounce back.
The characterization that I've written above is merely an inadequate sliver of the feeling that John Steinbeck triumphantly captured in his 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Winner of The National Book Award (1939, Favorite Fiction Book) and The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1940), this book (among many others) cemented Nobel Peace Prize winner Steinbeck as one of the greatest writers of all time.
An example of Steinbeck's masterful writing is evident in how he sprinkled interchapters within the main narration. With a near word salad style of writing that bordered on rambling; Steinbeck used phrases such as "ten-cent cotton and forty-cent meat"; "If only I had a hundred jalopies"; and "banana cream pie" to denote different perspectives and ideas apart from the point of view of any of the story's main characters.
Besides Steinbeck's expert writing, another good reason to read The Grapes of Wrath is that the "art imitates life and vice versa" reflection of a harsh and difficult time in history. One of the most important lessons which we can extract from this historically-based masterpiece is that there is nothing we're experiencing now that hasn’t, in one form or another, been experienced by someone else before us.
Simply put, history does indeed repeat itself, and we're best served by learning the lessons it continues (and will continue) to teach us. And this novel certainly has plenty of those laid out, like diamonds in a dry riverbed, in its 464 pages.