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At any given time over the last month or so, my internal monologue has been at least 75% songs from Bo Burnham’s comedy special/musical/performance art piece/psychological horror film on the terrors of isolation, Inside.

I’ve been a big fan of Bo ever since he was making comedy songs on YouTube back in the early 2000s, but never did I expect him to so accurately capture the incredible malaise of living through 2020, or to do it with such catchy tunes. Judging by the overwhelming public response, nobody else did either. Inside’s unique blend of comedy, music, social commentary, and existential dread is pretty singular, and I know I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since I watched the special when it premiered. If you find yourself in the same boat, here are three great books to read in between re-watching Inside for the fifteenth time, all of which you can check out from HCPL. 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh  

Inside is about a lot of things, but one of the main topics is definitely, well, being inside. In the special, Bo is inside due to COVID-19, but in Ottessa Moshfegh’s delightfully nihilistic novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation, our heroine is willingly locking herself inside of her luxury Manhattan apartment to sleep for a year. I think most of us can empathize with this mission. Although the novel is set in the year 2000--before most of the topics Bo sings about even existed--My Year of Rest and Relaxation will be just what the doctor ordered if you watched Inside and decided that being outside wasn’t really worth all the trouble after all. 

The New Me, by Halle Butler 

Most of us have been told at some point to follow our dreams, but that is often easier said than done. This is the premise of The New Me by Halle Butler: Millie has recently been dumped by her boyfriend, coming home to an empty apartment after days of soul-crushing temp work, and is now left to her own devices to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Like InsideThe New Me is obsessed with the quest for happiness: if a new haircut, new job, or new boyfriend won’t make you happy, then what will? If you’ve ever felt aimless and confused, The New Me might ring a little too true, but like Inside, it shows that the things that hit closest to home often also hit the hardest. 

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino 

Both My Year of Rest and Relaxation and The New Me are novels, but one of the most thrilling things about Inside is that it toes the line between fiction and reality. Jia Tolentino covers a lot of the same ground as Bo in her essay collection Trick Mirror: social media, the effect of the internet on our psyches, and the search for personal fulfillment. Inside can be a tough watch, but at the end of the day you still have the poppy synthesizers and catchy lyrics of Bo's songs to ease the pain. Trick Mirror hurts because the stories Tolentino is telling are 100% true, but that makes them all the more compelling to read.

All of these books can be a lot to deal with, so please proceed with caution. And if you need a break, drop your favorite comforting reads in the comments! Even for those of us that love being inside, we still need to get out every once in a while. 

 
Cover image of My Year of Rest and Relaxation

 

Cover image The New Me

 

Cover image trick mirror

 

 

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