As the corona pandemic cases continue to mount higher and we are forced to stay inside our homes, it is becoming increasingly important to occupy ourselves in a way that both stimulates our mood in such a way that does not drain us. Reported cases of anxiety and depression are rising continuously due to the single undeniable fact that there is nothing to do, nowhere to go and no one except the people we are quarantined with to do anything with. Apart from the lack of mobility, the fear of the unknown future has gotten to such a point that we have become prone to just lying in bed and staring out the window, barely surviving, and while that is okay, to just manage to live through these times, it also helps to indulge in some form of therapy, something to take your mind off the present circumstances if only for a few hours. In my own experience, reading has been one of the greatest forms of relaxation and ways to unwind. Here is a list of five books both old and new from South Asia that are sure to bring a smile to your face and make these days a little more bearable. KARACHI, YOU’RE KILLING ME BY SABA IMTIAZ — termed by Mohammad Hanif as a “love letter to Karachi and journalism.” This is a warm fast read centred around one struggling journalist who is so easy to relate to that its almost funny. Brimming with witty humour and heartwarming moments, it is the perfect book to pick up during this period of uncertainty. The story reminds of Bridget Jones Diary which I think is amazing and exactly what we need right now in our lives. Ayesha is so easy to love and root for that by the end of the book you will be left with the biggest of smiles on your face. AUSTENISTAN EDITED BY LAALEEN SUKHERA — with a foreword by Caroline Jane Knight, this a collection of short stories all inspired by the works of renowned literary legend, Jane Austen. These stories are by different authors including one by Laaleen Sukhera and have each been inspired by a Jane Austen novel. It is like reading her work had it been set in Pakistan. One can always sense the similarities between Austen’s world and the glittering if somewhat superficial lives of the Pakistani upper class and their customs. The stories will leave you nostalgic, uplifted and craving more. The book has rightly been referred to as “Austen with garam masala” by Moni Mohsin. DIARY OF A SOCIAL BUTTERFLY BY MONI MOHSIN — while this one might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is definitely worth mentioning! The book not only depicts the frivolous upper class of Lahore, it also attempts to shed a light on the way our society works as a whole. According to INDIA TODAY, it is “glamourous, girly fiction” that “evolves into Chanel-clad satire.” The story revolves around Butterfly and we see her dealing with the everyday whims and problems of a typical wealthy woman thriving on all that is shiny and new in the world. We get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of the Pakistani social scene through her eyes and realise just how much (or little!) she and other socialites are affected by the trials and tribulations that the country faces around them from 9/11 to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. BITCH GODESS FOR DUMMIES BY MAYA SHARMA SRIRAM — if you are into edge dark humour, then this is definitely the book for you. Being too nice and then suffering for it is a feeling we can all resonate with to some extent and that is exactly what this story deals with. It is set in both India and Singapore and revolves around Mira, who, after being exploited into being nice one too many times, decides that enough is enough. We see her transition into someone who is brave, strong and who will not stop till she gets what she wants. However, we soon find out that she has been hiding from the demons of her past as she is forced to confront them. This is a quick read that will definitely get you out of your reading slump! MANTO THE ESSENTIAL STORIES TRANSLATED BY MUHAMMAD UMAR MEMON — Manto, in any day and age is relevant in my opinion. His work is timeless and something that is sure to leave you either smiling or bewildered at the raw emotions with which he penned his stories down. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, it will tug at your heartstrings and you will want to keep reading even after you have read the very last page. From gems like “Toba Tek Singh” and “Frozen” to “Sharda”, you will find yourself getting lost in his world and once you are in, it is hard to pull yourself out as his wit and satire are something that will forever be able to bring a smile to your face and more importantly, it will make you think about the world as you know it.