What SHOWstudio Are Reading During Quarantine

by SHOWSTUDIO on 19 March 2020

Stuck inside and don't know what to do? Here are some book recommendations, from historical novels to memoirs, from the SHOWstudio team.

Stuck inside and don't know what to do? Here are some book recommendations, from historical novels to memoirs, from the SHOWstudio team.

The number of COVID-19 cases are growing with tremendous pace, requiring measures of protection such as self-isolation in order to look after not only ourselves but our loved ones as well. Two weeks of self-isolation may sound short in theory, but probably feels like an eternity, whether you are working from home or not. Online yoga lessons, new gourmet recipes, and indie movies that you wanted to watch but never had the time to - all are quality options for this unexpected leisure time we have on our hands. As the musician Frank Zappa once said: 'So many books, so little time,' and we have to say we agree. Now is the time to take advantage of the hidden benefits that come hand-in-hand with self-isolation and explore new book genres and titles.

To start us off, SHOWstudio director Nick Knight is reading Giacometti: A Biography, by James Lloyd. Below the rest of the SHOWstudio team recommends the books they're currently reading during self-isolation, in order for you to discover new gems or brag that you have already checked those titles off your to-read list!

The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

'Written by a lady-in-waiting to the Japanese empress Teishi in the 990s and early 1000s, The Pillow Book is a diary of sorts, with musings and reflections on courtly life in historical Japan. Sei Shonagon comes across rather like a Dorothy Parker of 10th century Japan: witty, cynical and sometimes mean. Although I have to refer to the glossary at the back of the book repeatedly, I'm really enjoying finding out about a life so different from mine, but with a surprising number of relatable situations. Seeing as our social interactions today are, at least temporarily, restricted, living vicariously through Sei Shonagon's court intrigues is helping to make up for our enforced lack of human contact.' - Bella Gladman, editorial associate

Andres Serrano: Uncensored Photographs by Michel Draguet, Germano Celant, Quentin Bajac, Nathalie Dietschy, Jan Koenot

'I am currently (and finally) reading the Andres Serrano: Uncensored Photographs, a book that explores the photographer's work and vision. From his controversial Immersions series (1987-90) to my personal favourite, The Morgue series (1992), the reader gets not only to see the total universe of his work and his approach on life and art, but to take a deep dive into his philosophy, influences and morals. If you enjoy reading about artists that took their work a step further, then Serrano is definitely one you should have your eye on.' - Christina Kapourtzoudi, editorial intern

POPism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol

'This book is Andy Warhol’s memoir of the years 1960-1969. I managed to catch his retrospective at Tate Modern before it shut, but you don’t need to know the work to enjoy Warhol’s sharp-tongued commentary observing the rise of Pop Art and the comings and goings from his studio. It’s a welcome escape from reality, and with a foreseeable future of Friday nights on the sofa, I’m living through the anecdotes provided by Warhol’s crew which paint a picture of hedonistic New York in the swinging sixties. I’m planning to follow up by watching Factory Girl (2012), which depicts the rise and fall of one of Warhol’s ‘superstars’ Edie Sedgwick, who contributes to the book.' - Hetty Mahlich, editorial assistant

Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life by Laurie Lisle

'I am currently reading the Louise Nevelson biography called A Passionate Life. Nevelson is my favourite sculptor, known for her monumental, monochromatic wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures; and her life was mental (she was also a massive bitch which kind of makes me love her even more).' - Tom Prees, project manager

The I Ching or The Book of Changes

'My copy of this book was a hand-me down from a good friend and I've been meaning to take a deep dive into it for months. It is a 5000-year-old classic of Chinese wisdom that has been a guide to predicting the future. The book can be read as a book of advice revealing the laws of life and the balance of world peace and harmony, or it can be used as a means of divination to help answer life's questions. Both are pretty on the nose for the current climate... The book is Dench with a capital D and is quite a heavy read, both literally and emotionally, so I'll be peppering my reading sessions with audio Mandarin lessons - another task I've been meaning to do for months. Wish me luck!' - Georgina Evans, fashion editor

Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber

'With capitalism in somewhat of a suspended state, the coronavirus shutdown obliging previously-resistant companies to adopt working from home, and a sudden onslaught of spare time to indulge in introverted passion projects and become politically aware, there couldn’t be a better time to read Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. The book grew from a 2013 essay and explores the proliferation of useless occupations created by our capitalist, work-fetishising society, moving onto the negative spiritual effect doing one of these jobs can have on an individual. It sounds a bit dense but Graeber’s writing style is completely accessible, and the book is enlivened by letters from ordinary citizens describing their bullshit jobs in Kafka-esque detail.' - Sarah Kathryn Cleaver, editorial associate

The Gay Seventies by Hal Fischer

'On one of my last outings to the real world, I picked up a copy of The Gay Seventies – a monograph by Hal Fischer. I found it at the Tate bookshop, where I flicked through an abundance of beautiful coffee table books and then thoroughly washed my hands in all directions for at least 20 seconds. This book has been on my wish list for months, so it felt good to finally carry it home while keeping a strict two-metre distance from all passersby. Would recommend.' - Nick Merdasi, digital designer

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

'Outliers: The Story of Success is the third non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell, and examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the '10,000-Hour Rule', claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours; and I am very intrigued by that. Also, a few friends recommended it to me, so it is my turn to do so.' - Anthony Helal, social media intern

Modern Nature by Derek Jarman

'I'm halfway through Derek Jarman's Modern Nature. There's a strange parallel between the AIDS crisis in the late eighties, the fear of the unknown of what the future would hold and the fear of this virus now, and all the unknowns. Jarman spent a lot of time isolated down in Dungeness tending to his garden during a time without the Internet and mobile phones, watching the plants grow and die, the animals and the insects come and go. It's been a great reminder to spend time with nature where possible during these strange and difficult times.' - Adam Boon, archivist

The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962

'I’ve stolen my flatmate’s copy of The Journals of Sylvia Plath, which, at 742 pages long, is perfect for the quarantine long haul. I have to admit I’ve never understood the allure of poetry–Plath’s or anyone else’s–but her prose, whether fictional or autobiographical, has always struck a deep chord. Plath manages to turn the most mundane experiences, such as looking out of her dormitory window, or going on mediocre dates, into elaborate existential meditations on what it means to be a writer, a woman and a human being. This book is a testament to the creative fulfilment of keeping a diary, an activity which I would highly recommend during the current apocalyptic moment.' - Violet Conroy, migration assistant

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