Arts and Culture

These are Margaret Atwood's reads for while on lockdown

Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood's recommended reads for a pandemic. Image: ActuaLitté

Kaya Bülbül
Digital Producer, World Economic Forum
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Arts and Culture

  • Novelist Margaret Atwood provided book recommendations for readers on lockdown.
  • Her novel, Oryx and Cake, is about a man-made virus that consumes society.
  • Detective novels, romances and comic books can provide comfort or laughs during a crisis.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood recently offered book recommendations to fans and followers on Twitter who are feeling isolated and anxious in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Have you read?

    Channeling her inner bibliotherapist, the best-selling author provided suggestions based on genre.


    A guilty pleasure

    Responding to requests for comforting reads, Atwood suggested Agatha Christie’s crime novels featuring beloved sleuths Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. While crime doesn’t immediately come to mind as a “soothing” genre for many, there is something to be said for the satisfaction of a detective finally cracking a difficult case. Eureka!

    Cover art for Agatha Christie's books Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot
    Margaret Atwood recommends Agatha Christie detective novels for anyone looking for a comforting read.

    Romantic recommendations

    When asked for love stories, she proposed two categories: love stories that work out, and love stories that do not. For the latter, Atwood recommended Edna O'Brien’s trilogy The Country Girls as well as Edith Wharton’s heartbreaking novel The Age of Innocence. As for the former, “you can’t beat Jane Austen novels,” the author remarked.

    Cover art for Edna O'Brien’s trilogy The Country Girls, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
    Margaret Atwood's recommended romantic reads for a pandemic

    A hearty laugh

    For those who need a good chuckle, Atwood suggested comics, including Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant, known for its humorous take on historical events, and The Snooty Bookshop by Tom Gauld, a collection of 50 postcards from one of Britain's most celebrated cartoonists.

    Cover art for Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant, and The Snooty Bookshop by Tom Gauld
    Margaret Atwood's recommended comic books if you need a laugh.

    Total immersion

    Golden Globe-winning actress Mia Farrow joined the conversation on books about plagues. Atwood, not leaving much to the imagination, recommended three historical non-fiction books: 1491 by Charles Mann, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and Rats, Lice, and History by Hans Zinnser.

    Cover art for the books 1491 by Charles Mann, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and Rats, Lice, and History by Hans Zinnser.
    Margaret Atwood recommends three historical non-fiction books for anyone seeking more information about plagues.

    Global pandemics are far from a novel topic for the critically acclaimed author, who has written about fictitious virus outbreaks in the past. When pressed on which of her books could be taught in a Science as a Story class, she suggested Oryx and Crake, a dystopian tale that revolves around a man-made virus that slowly consumes society.

    Cover art for Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
    Margaret Atwood has written about pandemics, too.

    The author is undoubtedly best known for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been adapted to an Emmy-winning dystopian drama series. However, the show recently announced it was shutting down production of its fourth season due to the escalating outbreak of COVID-19 in the US.


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