How To Stay Sane Whilst Staying Home
When the circuit-breaker was announced, the introverted me threw my arms in the air and sighed with relief. Hurray, no more awkward small talk in the morning, a mandate not to join large parties. At long last, I can hide at home forever and shall be so much more efficient and happy without having to deal with—urgh—people.

After 21 consecutive days of solitude, I’m regretting the sentiment. The silence has not calmed me down or cleared my acne. On the contrary, it seems as if I—along with many others—have been slowly driven insane by the lack of what we supposedly loathed.

If you are one of those people dying of loneliness, we may just have a solution. Stop arguing with your furniture. Put down that instant coffee. Visiting is still illegal, but you can still keep yourself sane and productive with NLB’s massive collection of audiobooks.

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

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With nothing to do at home, more and more people are cooking and baking to pass the time. Unfortunately, about 70% of them have never baked a cookie until Covid-19, and the results speak for themselves. They look more like conceptual art than dinner.

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential can help. Although the late Mr. Bourdain was mostly remembered for his writing rather than his teaching, his books do offer some very practical advice for aspiring home cooks. Advice like ‘Just one good chef’s knife will do’ and ‘add butter to everything.”

Furthermore, it’s inspiring! If the late Anthony Bourdain cannot inspire you to pick up a knife and start cooking, I don’t know who can. 

Kitchen Confidential is the perfect accompaniment to the endless chopping and peeling and cleaning. His wagyu-grade, food-porn descriptions will stir you to greater efforts. His account of the crazy ebb-and-flow of a busy kitchen makes me feel less like a homemaker, and more like the valued member of a pirate crew.

7 Habits Of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

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  • Be Proactive
  • Begin With The End In Mind 
  • Put First Things First
  • Think Win/Win
  • Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
  • Synergise
  • Sharpen The Saw 

Here you go, I have made this book even more effective. 

In all seriousness, however, I cannot summarise this book without being terribly inefficient. If you must boil it down to just one takeaway, I would suggest the following chart:

Sadly, highly effective people have no ‘procrastinate’ option.

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

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Normally, I’m not a fan of management books. One copy of the Harvard Business Review is my limit. Any more than that and I’ll start zoning out, as we are all liable to on the fourteenth page of a bullet-pointed presentation.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work isn’t exactly a management classic, but it can claim super-relevance right now because one of its main subjects is the gentle art of working from home. Fried and Hansson are co-founders of the task management app Basecamp, and their company has been working remotely since its very foundation. They have employees all across the world, and everything from product development to marketing is done online, but with relatively few video-conferences or DMs flying back and forth. 

How do they do it? The answer is actually a little more complicated than you would expect, although the book packages it into brisk, highly-readable chapters. To prevent people from being glued to their messaging apps, they have ‘office hours’ where you can consult or collaborate. Neither does the company believe in ‘looping everyone in’. Instead, work is done by small groups of three, which helps to facilitate communication whilst keeping things efficient.

Is the book applicable to everyone? Not really. During normal times, this would be an unremarkable thesis. During the Pandemic, however, it provides some essential, sanity-saving advice.

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

Source: healthline
Wild by Cheryl Strayed is basically the opposite of Eat Pray Love, with the hedonism substituted with masochism. Instead of going to Italy to drown her sorrows in pasta and wine, Cheryl hikes alone across the 4,200km Pacific Crest Trail, until her toenails fall off and mushrooms blossom from her armpits. In the process, she overcomes the grief of losing her mother, who died abruptly of cancer at 45.

Granted, Wild is not the most elegant of books. There is only one way to describe it: raw. There are no clever epithets you can frame and put on instagram. There is very little in the way of what you might call ‘literary’ writing. However, it is the most transporting book you can read, because it takes you into rain-soaked national parks, remote gas stops populated with strange men and precariously-pitched tents on cliff sides clearly unfit for human habitation.

“I’m not a hobo,” Cheryl yells, whilst scrambling through forests in shoes improvised from duct-tape, the last few dollars of change tumbling from her pocket and into some Californian ravine. It is the perfect escape for those feeling trapped by the four walls.

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Political memoirs are the worst types of books, in my opinion. If the writer is a former office-holder, the book is an ego-stroking self-congratulation. If they’re still running for higher office, the book is really just a pitch deck telling you to vote for them come October. Read enough of them and they’re indistinguishable from one another. There’s the Hardscrabble Childhood which they had to overcome, the Family Tragedy which shaped their worldview, the Wise Mentor which set them on the right course, and of course, The Moment which sparked their idealistic desire to enter politics.

As writing, I find them invariably dull and pretentious.

Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming is the exception to this rule, possibly because she does not have political ambitions. The end result is a down-to-earth and absolutely hilarious book which entertains, not panders. It is absolutely what’s missing from the realm of political writing.

Who knew, for example, that what was missing from my life was a chapter-long diss of America’s first black president? I certainly didn’t, until I listened to Michelle Obama’s scathing portrait of a Young Obama. 

“You put a suit on any half-intelligent black man, and white people tend to go bonkers,” she quips, recalling the hype which preceded his arrival at the law firm where she was to serve as his mentor. Noting his Hawaiian birthplace and white linen suit, she dubs him a “comparatively exotic geek” with a “challenged” sense of style and an “appalling” smoking habit.

It’s really too bad she became First Lady instead of doing stand-up comedy. I would totally watch a Netflix special, where Michelle shares her thoughts on everything from Les Miserables (“helplessly pounded by French Misery”) to her husband’s style of argument (“an eloquent—and therefore irritating—cascade”). Barack Obama’s yet-unpublished memoir has big boots to fill.

Listen Up

The temptation right now is to follow every single piece of news about Covid-19 because knowledge is good, right? Knowing the case count or the curve gives us an illusory sense of control, as if we can better protect ourselves just by being informed.

The truth is, trying to consume every single piece of news is more likely to stress you out without making anyone safer. Consider then, taking a break from Covid-19 and diving into an audiobook. Use the chance to improve yourself or to keep yourself mentally sane.

Best of all, you don’t even need to leave the house. Just download the NLB Mobile App and plug in.

This article was sponsored by The National Reading Movement. 

If these audiobooks are still not for you, don’t panic. Thousands of other titles in fiction and nonfiction are available for loan anytime, anywhere via the NLB Mobile app. Download it here to get started.

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