How many times have we wished we could spend whole days reading? Now that we are forced to stay home, we can finally open all those books that for lack of time we left on the bedside table, waiting to finally be able to browse through them, or order new ones online. Whether novels, essays or poetry collections, everything can help us face this difficult quarantine and allow us, even for a few hours, to move away from reality and give us some comfort.

For this reason, I have selected five bestsellers of different genres that can inspire and transmit positive messages or even just entertain you on these long days.

Becoming - Michelle Obama (Autobiography)

Behind every great man, there is always a great woman. Wrong! Behind every great man, there's always a great woman. Michelle Robinson, the woman who revolutionized the role of First Lady, and not just because of the colour of her skin. Michelle, in fact, is the first African American woman to hold this "office" in the White House, but this is certainly not what makes her so special. She is a brave woman, a skilful speaker, a mum present, a philanthropist, an activist and much more. With her active presence, she has been able to support her husband and enter the hearts of the citizens of the United States and beyond. This book shows the soul of a unique and revolutionary woman who struggles to live according to authenticity, at the service of high ideals.

Why read this book: it tells the journey Michelle had to undertake - metaphorically and materially - to understand who she wanted to become and how to do it. The ending is obvious: she made it. So, let yourself be inspired by her story!

The tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris (Historical novel)

The story is one of a brave man, Lale. He speaks several languages, has good physical stamina and has sworn to himself to come out of that hell called Auschwitz alive. At times he loses hope, he has seen too many deaths, too much pain inflicted in senseless ways. And yet, he passes very difficult trials and despite everything he manages to live, not just survive. Holding him to life, tooth and nail, is Gita, a girl he met while tattooing yet another group of Jews on the way. There will be several meetings, among fears, whispers and bribes of officers. But the two will manage to live their love and for a few moments forget they are in an extermination camp. To hold them together a promise, that of a future together.

Why read this book: the story is based on a true story. What the reader receives is therefore partly a testimony, a secret that the protagonist Lale Sokolov wanted to keep hidden for years, until the death of his wife Gita, but then decided to reveal and tell through the voice of Heather Morris, the author of the novel. It was at the top of the bestseller lists worldwide for most of 2018. It was so successful that this year a TV series based on the novel will be released in the United States.

The woman in the window - A.J. Finn (Psychological thriller)

Anna is a psychologist or at least she was before she locked herself in the house because of her agoraphobia. A traumatic event has in fact pushed her not to want to leave the house anymore and she only observes the world through the lens of her camera from the windows of her house in New York and the internet, where she finds all the information about her neighbours, including Jane Russell, who is very kind to her, visits her, plays chess together and opens up to her confessing that she has some friction with her husband. One evening Anna, through her window, sees Jane in danger and immediately calls 911. Someone seems to have stabbed her, but no one will ever believe her version: Jane Russell is in fact alive and well and is not the woman Anna spent time with. Why doesn't anyone want to believe her version and start looking for the woman who was most likely killed in the Russell home? Agoraphobia isn't Anna's only problem: she's separated from her husband and her daughter Olivia who she hasn't seen for months, she's in therapy and she takes several drugs that combined with alcohol can give hallucinations, and Anna drinks a lot of wine. Her condition makes her a completely unreliable witness. But she won't give up and starts a personal investigation that could put her in danger.

Why read this book: the story deals with mental illness and, mainly, agoraphobia, but not only as the fear of open spaces but as anxiety to get out of the house (which I hope will not affect any of us once the quarantine is over). The beginning is slow but then the story becomes full of unexpected twists and turns. If you like the book, you can also watch the film adaptation.

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho (Fantasy Novel)

The protagonist of the magical story written by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist is Santiago, a shepherd boy who, driven by a dream he had twice, in which a child tells him to reach the Pyramids to take possession of a treasure, undertakes a long journey to discover the world. But it is not the destination that counts, the important thing is the path he takes to get to the destination. During his journey Santiago meets a King disguised as an old man, who shows himself, in various forms, every time a man is about to give in to his weaknesses. The King gives Santiago two stones that have the ability to show him the way, through signals to be deciphered. The protagonist of The Alchemist sells his sheep and leaves everything to take steps towards knowledge. Once in Tangier, in order to survive, he is forced to work hard before he can leave again. It is in this second phase of his journey that he will make two very important encounters. First with the girl who will make him fall in love, but who he is forced to leave to continue on his way. The second, fundamental meeting is with an English man who has studied alchemy and wants to meet the Alchemist. Proceeding on his journey towards Egypt, Santiago comes across an essay from which he will learn important lessons, including that of listening to his own heart and fulfilling his personal legend.

Why read this book: After many vicissitudes Santiago realizes that the only thing that has real value in his life, the one that is often forgotten in its essentiality, is love. So, what may seem like a question, beginning to read the book, turns into an affirmation. You have to learn to listen to your heart and find yourself before you can share your world with those you love.

IKIGAI. The Japanese secret to a long happy life - Bettina Lemke (Book of Personal Growth)

From Japan comes a method to reach self-knowledge, to discover what gives meaning and fulfilment to one's everyday life. The purpose? To find one's ikigai, one's reason for living, and finally to feel that one is finally leading a full, satisfying and worth living existence.

Ikigai is a magic word, so magic that there is no simple translation into Western languages. We can call it ''the reason to exist'', ''the engine of life'', or even better ''what is worth getting up for in the morning''. Each one of us has his own, even if not everyone is aware of it: it is the fundamental premise for living a healthy, satisfying and, simply, happy life. Examples of this are the inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa, where the rate of over 100 years old is three times higher than the four largest islands in the country: their awareness of their ikigai, combined with a healthy and relaxed lifestyle, makes them one of the longest and happiest people on the planet.

Why read this book: Inspired by the inhabitants of Okinawa and suggesting practical exercises that lead to the recognition of values and goals that are really important for everyone in life, the author teaches us to recognize what gives us energy, curiosity, positivity, personal achievement, self-confidence, planning. In other words, what we need to be happy.

Do you like reading? Do you read books in your mother tongue or in a foreign language? You could read one of the five recommended books in the language of your language exchange fellows. In addition to spending quality time, you will surely learn a lot of new words and increase your language knowledge.

Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer Language Exchange