AMC Book Club — What Would A Discovery of Witches' Diana Bishop Be Reading?
I can imagine tapping Diana Bishop’s shoulder in a dark and dusty Oxford library and graciously inviting her to my invented book club. At first she would be unhappy with me interrupting her re-reading of the history of Darwin, or any number of copious History of Science books (that I won’t pretend to know). What I do know and know well, are good escapist and messy-romantic-relationship-drama books that I think would encourage Diana to sip her red wine and languidly sit by the fire more often.
Given her chaotic reality of balancing her work as a witch, her forbidden love affair, trauma from her murdered parents, and the need to appear mortal when being supernatural, I've tried to suggest some books for Diana that will arouse her genius and curious sensibilities, while helping her safely retreat from the perils of her world.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
This is not me mocking Diana’s passing cravings to be ‘normal.’ Rather, this is the perfect book for Diana to read when questioning her forbidden love affair with vampire Matthew Goode.
Normal People is about two lovers from different classes and worlds, set in a much more domestic and colloquial setting than Diana’s magical universe. I think Diana would find therapeutic pathos in the labyrinths of love that exists in every sentence of this beautifully detailed novel. I can imagine Diana seeking solace in the tales of forbidden love and passion within the poignant intimacy of Marianna and Cornell, the two loves at the nucleus of the book.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
I just know Diana would both admire and appreciate Octavia Butler's grand transcendence via her fiction, thrusting her very human and emotive stories into such post-apocalyptic, detached dystopian worlds.
In this epic novel once quoted by Lauryn Hill, set in the hot mess that Octavia Butler prophesied or predicted as the 2020s we are now living in, Lauren the novel's protagonist has lots in common with Diana. She has a superpower/is superhuman (her hyperempathy). She has murdered parents. She's facing a world of forbidden love. And lastly, she's constantly battling her denial of her powers, with recognizing how they could truly help remedy the world.
I know Diana will see herself in the mirror that is Lauren, but I think she’ll also see a different reflection, one that allows her to escape with Lauren. Parable of a Sower, with survivalist Lauren leading a complex group of characters, helps see light at the end of the tunnel, a light that Diana is keen to see.
A Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
I mean, it’s in the title. I’m exhausted just watching Diana’s life on screen, yet also exhausted by our nameless narrator's life of nothing in A Year of Rest and Relaxation. Ironically though, the apathy and need for solipsism of our nameless narrator (who gives up on the world and hibernates in a cloud of valium in her apartment for a year), could be quite helpful for a wry witch on a mission.
Diana may be both judgmental and jealous of this protagonist. Yet, she will take relief from the subconscious moral of this book—that there is a trade off with all lives, a paradox to each route, and a profound meaning in doing too little or doing too much.
Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
True story: I was so into this book whilst on the beach that I got sunstroke not wanting to look away from the page to apply sunscreen or search for shade. Year of the Flood—part of a gut, magic realist, survivalist journey—is like Handmaid's Tale on a good trip of acid. It’s full of both physical and existential loneliness, surrealism and stunningly written double female narrators. My favorite of the narrators is Ren, the sex club trapeze dancer, who takes us through her newfound world, one I think Diana would find strength after strength in.
The God’s Gardeners, the community at the heart of this book, would satisfy Diana’s scientific senses. The God’s Gardeners is a lower class community who combine science and religion, live to protect plants and animals, and predict a waterless flood that comes to pass. I imagine the God’s Gardeners would ignite Diana’s theology taste buds, and fulfill her appetite for anthropology.
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
From what we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that Diana isn’t getting therapy for all of her trauma. And without an unbiased listener to talk to, she may get burnt out. I mean, her lover is a vampire, and we know where that got Buffy and Angel. For those of us who can’t afford therapy, we know that Brené Brown is the next best thing. Although Diana Bishop’s strength is to be marvelled, I think she could learn how to be a little more vulnerable.
I showed Brené Brown to my dad, a tough post-traumatic cookie just like Diana. He’s only ever shown emotion when watching soccer, which he theatrically jumps at every night. When he heard Brené, he nodded his head and said ‘she’s got a point’ in monotone. Now, Diana does struggle to be vulnerable, and rightfully so. Losing parents and being a witch would probably take a few centuries of therapy.
I’m hoping that Diana accepts my offer of joining our Book Club, and in return can educate us with her vast knowledge on everything witch, history of science, and frankly school us on how to be a badass witch (even with all that witch wind). Next time you watch A Discovery of Witches, imagine Diana taking a brief break amidst all the chaos to open the pages of one of the books I’ve suggested. And while you’re at it, I suggest you give them a read too!