7 Life lessons from books while living through a pandemic

books to read

I’ve always loved reading and I have learned so many life lessons from the books I have read. When 2020 began, it started off with so many hopes and dreams. I was no different and I had a big list of things that I wanted to do this year. But barely 3 months into the year, things changed in ways we never expected before. I don’t think life has been easy for anyone during the pandemic.  The things we took once for granted have become scary now. Days seem to be going by in blur. There are so many things that the heart wants, but all those things must wait now. In all the chaos, the only things that have been keeping me sane are books.

I often feel like I’m living the same day on repeat. I try to do something different each day but then my little schedule gets thrown out by things not under my control. So, it ends up being the same day on repeat. Some days I don’t find enough time to read and those are the days that I hate the most.

I figured I’m not alone in the situation that I’m facing. We have all been made to look at things in a different way. Life hasn’t been the same as it did before. So, I decided to find some inspiration from books to deal with things while living through a pandemic. Here are a few life lessons from books that you might find useful.

1. Learn to make the best of the situation like The Count from A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow


The book is the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov who is forced to live a life of being imprisoned in the Hotel Metropol. When he finds himself in such a sad situation, he decides to make the best of it. The Count is friendly and well read. He has an aura about him that draws people to him. The book delves into a few flashbacks from the past, the friendships that Count builds through the course of his life at the Metropol.

For me the book was perfect considering the current situation we are in! I have barely stepped out of my building for months now and I can only imagine how the Count managed to live inside the Hotel for all those years!

Here are some quotes from the book that might help you persevere.

“He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of lucidity—a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of the life we had been meant to lead all along.”

-Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

“If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”

-Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

I know we may not always be able to look at the bright side of life but try we must. It is easy to feel sad about the things that we have missed out on because of the pandemic, but at times we must learn to adapt, to make the best of what we have.

2. Like Nora Seed from The Midnight Library by Matt Haig you can think about all the what ifs of life. But what matter are the decisions you make to better the present.

The Midnight Library

Nora Seed has a lot of things that she could have been. But her life currently isn’t great. Nothing seems to be going her way and she regrets the decisions that she made. She wonders what would have happened if she had done things differently. And then she finds herself in the Midnight Library stuck between life and death.

Here she is given an opportunity to be in different versions of her life in which she had made a different decision. And then she begins to discover herself in her own way through the decisions that she hadn’t made in her root life.

We’ve all been plagued by the what ifs of our lives at different stages. Trust me this thought comes to me almost every other day. Sometimes it is my decisions that I question but at times it is the events of my life. And often I end up being sad. But there is nothing that we can do about the things that have already happened, can we?

The only thing that we can do is perhaps make better decisions and choose things that bring us true happiness.

Here is a quote from The Midnight Library:

“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga. But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy. We can’t tell if any of those other versions would of been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.”

-Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

3. We are all anxious people dealing with problems of our own. But we can still help others like all the “Anxious People” in Fredrik Backman’s book

Anxious People

This book has become one of my all time favourites and not without a good reason. This is the story of a hostage situation. It is the story of a failed bank robbery. This is the story of an apartment viewing. But most importantly, this is the story of all the people in it.

Each character in this story has some sort of troubles of their own. It is during this apartment viewing that became a hostage situation, that they find themselves talking about their lives and getting to know the strangers.

They realize that each one has their problems and sometimes, there may not be a solution in sight for the problems. But being empathetic and listening to others can make them feel better.

And most importantly, this quote about adulting sums up our lives these days!

“Because the terrible thing about becoming an adult is being forced to realize that absolutely nobody cares about us, we have to deal with everything ourselves now, find out how the whole world works. Work and pay bills, use dental floss and get to meetings on time, stand in line and fill out forms, come to grips with cables and put furniture together, change tires on the car and charge the phone and switch the coffee machine off and not forget to sign the kids up for swimming lessons. We open our eyes in the morning and life is just waiting to tip a fresh avalanche of “Don’t Forget!”s and “Remember!”s over us. We don’t have time to think or breathe, we just wake up and start digging through the heap, because there will be another one dumped on us tomorrow. We look around occasionally, at our place of work or at parents’ meetings or out in the street and realize with horror that everyone else seems to know exactly what they’re doing. We’re the only ones who have to pretend. Everyone else can afford stuff and has a handle on other stuff and enough energy to deal with even more stuff. And everyone else’s children can swim.”

― Fredrik Backman, Anxious People

This book made me laugh and it made me cry. It is such a heart-warming book! Please give it a read.

4. Learn to be kind to others like Auggie, his friends and his family in Wonder by R J Palacio

Wonder

You are never too old for children’s books! This book is a perfect example for that!

Auggie is born with a facial deformity and after being home schooled for a while, he is sent to a school. The book revolves around his experience of going to school and making friends.

If there is one thing that the book teaches us, it teaches you to be kind. Kinder than necessary.

While it is difficult to deal with whole situation of the pandemic, we might perhaps be on the better side of things. Things may not be perfect, but we may be doing just okay. But there are a lot of people who have lost their loved ones, who may have lost their livelihood and do not know what to expect from the future.

So the best thing to do is to be kind.

And yes, like Auggie says,

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

-R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Let us remember all the people who have made our lives easier especially during the pandemic. They deserve a standing ovation.

5. You may go back in time. But you must come back to the present Before the Coffee gets Cold (Toshikazu Kawaguchi)

Before the Coffee gets cold

This is a short book but one that makes you think. The book is about this little coffee shop in Tokyo which is special. This little café lets your travel to the past.

Of course, there are rules to be followed because going back in time isn’t a thing you can do without any restrictions. The main one being having to return to the present before the coffee gets cold.

Different people try to go back to the past with the hope that if given another chance at doing a certain thing, life would have been different. But it isn’t so simple, is it?

We may find ourselves lingering in the past because the present isn’t so rosy. But then we cannot change the past. The more time we spend about the things that happened, the more time we lose on working on the present and making it better.

Nostalgia is a good thing. But too much of anything is bad right? So maybe think about the past but don’t stay there for too long. Return before the coffee gets cold.

6. If you can’t make the usual pie, make at least a potato peel pie like the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer) in other words make the best of what you have.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I love Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because what is not to love about that book! Historic Fiction – check. Epistolary – check. A book about books/book society- check.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society started off as a reason to escape punishment. And then to make it real, the members started meeting. This book is set during World War 2 times and food was hard to come by. Since making an actual pie was difficult for lack of ingredients, the potato peel pie makes an appearance.

You’d have to read the book to know more about the pie. But the lesson here is that, sometimes we must make do with the things that we have. It may be difficult but sometimes necessary. Often the whole adjustment thing doesn’t seem like it, because the people involved make the whole experience better.

And while we are on the topic of books, this quote from the book sums up the joy of picking up a perfect read.

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”

― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

7. Don’t give up on things when they seem difficult especially when you know you’ve sacrificed a lot to get where you are like Addie from The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible life of Addie Larue
The cover is so gorgeous that I might consider getting a physical copy!

This is a book that I just finished reading or rather listening to and I loved the story. Adeline or Addie is a girl from a little village in France who refuses to accept a life that is ordinary or normal.

When she is forced to be married, she prays for her freedom and her prayers are answered by this God of the Dark. He grants her prayer in exchange for her soul. Once she feels that she has had enough of living, the darkness can take her soul. She agrees but then realizes that her prayer has been granted in a twisted way – she can have her freedom, but no one remembers her. Not her parents, not her best friend, no one.

And so begins Addie’s struggle to understand the implications of her curse – of what she can or cannot do. And the Darkness or Luc as he comes to be known keeps visiting her and asking her if she had had enough and is willing to give up.

But Addie doesn’t give up. Life without anyone remembering you is difficult. She can’t even say her own name. She can’t own anything. But through all of it, Addie goes through life doing whatever she can and not giving up. And 300 years is a long time to be not giving up on life.

When things are not going the way we wanted them to, we may be inclined to giving up. But when you have sacrificed a lot to be where you are in life, you shouldn’t give up.

These are some of my favourite life lessons from books that I’ve loved reading. Often you find answers to your questions, or inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. I haven’t written here for a while and I was wondering what to write and then since I’ve found my solace in books, I thought I’d share about them.

Do you find any of your favourites on this list? What are your favourite life lessons from books? Let me know.

If you are thinking about how to find more time to read, here are a few tips that you may find useful.

I post about the books I read on my Bookstagram. Check it out here : @thebooklore

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Life Lessons from Books

7 responses to “7 Life lessons from books while living through a pandemic”

  1. Apoorva Sriram says:

    This is suuuuch a great article!!! This year has been hard on all of us. I’ve also read some of these books and they have really helped my mental health.
    My favorites have been A Gentleman in Moscow and The Midnight Library. Also, I listened to an audiobook called The power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown. It’s more like a series of TED talks than an audiobook, but it has added so much value and really changed the way I perceive everything that goes on around me. Check if out if you have the time.
    Again, great article!

  2. Akshay Gupta says:

    Fiction is not a genre that I typically end up liking, but this write-up made me add all of them in the books to read list.

  3. Damyanti says:

    I have been hearing a lot about Anxious People. Will be picking it up soon.

  4. I love each and every quote that you have shared, Reema. Book no. 3 especially appeals a lot to me.

  5. We all are in a similar situation with the year going by in a blur. Plans we make seldom come through and we didnt plan for actually seem to happen.

    Nooks definately at such times come to our rescue and give us the much needed insight to tackle all our insecurites and issues.

    I loved the A Gentleman in Moscow, infact I read it dugin the intial lockdown and found the similarity.

    Learning to be kind like Auggie is something we humans need to be constantly reminded, for (including me) we tend to overlook this aspect of life.

    I now need to pick a few others more from your list of books to get the true essence of it.

    Lovely clicks by the way

  6. Shanthi Sri K says:

    Loved the way you wrote, keep it up. Planning to read Anxious people.

  7. Shilpa Gupte says:

    I loved all the quotes you shared here. I have read Wonder, and loved it, too. But the quotes spoke to me. There is indeed so much our books teach us about life and living. 🙂

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