In the opening pages of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Earth is destroyed. Now if that doesn't scream 2020 so far, what does?

In Douglas Adams's 1979 novel, which premiered as a radio series on BBC Radio4 in 1978 (42 years ago—but more about the significance of that number later), Earth is suddenly blown up in order to make room for an intergalactic superhighway. Now, in a year that has—after only 3 months, people—given us a contentious, confusing democratic primary, the death of Kobe Bryant, new and worsening facts about our climate and habitat at large, appalling leadership, and of course the rapid spread of and global shutdowns by the coronavirus (COVID-19), it seems impossible to turn to any source for comfort.

Enter The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a novel that starts with the global annihilation that we might be heading for and then follows the characters as they cope with new realities, with isolation and loss, an endless information source that brings with it endless anxiety, and an egomaniacal, arrogant, selfish, attention-craving president of the galaxy.

A quick synopsis for those who haven't read the novel (go read it): Arthur Dent is quickly saved by his buddy, Ford Prefect, right before Earth is destroyed. Turns out, Prefect is actually an alien and a researcher for a book called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book that strongly resembles the Internet: an endless source of material for everything you need to know. Under Prefect's guidance, they are able to jump onto the Vogon ship (bureaucratic alien species) that is about to demolish earth.Eventually they are thrown off the ship and catch a ride on the stolen Heart of Gold, which is being piloted by the renegade president of the galaxy named Zaphod Beeblebrox (who very much resembles Donald Trump), a depressed robot named Marvin, and a very bland, devoid of personality half-human named Trillion. They hitchhike with this crew as they embark on a journey towards Deep Thought, a computer system that has the answer to the "ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything."

So how will this book help those struggling with the current madness that is 2020 so far? Let's start with the guide itself, the thing the novel is named after. It's given to the main character–the sheepish, timid, not so confident Arthur Dent–who's stuck alone, with nowhere to go, in a confusing and upsetting time. The only thing Dent has to turn to is a super computer-like device that holds all known information–for better or for worse. Does this sound like being quarantined in your house with only the Internet to keep you company, to confuse and upset you?

The way Adams describes the Guide is like this: "The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in." So yeah, it's just the Internet.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) Trailer # 1 - Martin Freeman HD youtu.be

Next, let's look at maybe the most glaring, unsetting similarity with the novel and today: the president. In HHGTTG, the president of the galaxy is a two-headed, three-armed, egomaniac who before becoming president was famous just for being famous; he was made president just to distract the citizens of the galaxy. Adams even describes him as an "adventurer, ex-hippie, good-timer, (crook? quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch." Later on in the novel, he writes: "[He's] pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn't understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid. He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so—but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence the act. He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous."

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Best Books to Read While Quarantined

Even while we stock up on water, canned goods, and enough hand sanitizer to drown ourselves in, don't forget to refresh your book collection with an assortment of good reads.

Yes, many of us are confined to our homes for the sake of public safety, with health officials uncertain how long the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will last as a global health emergency and a historic pandemic. On the bright side, over 80% of people who contract the virus experience "mild" symptoms and recover on their own, and the virus has a global mortality rate of 3.4%. Still, the virus affects the immunocompromised, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, so for the sake of not killing someone's grandparent or any of the 23 million Americans who have autoimmune diseases, stay home.

Even while we stock up on water and canned goods and MacGyver ourselves some DIY hand sanitizer, don't forget to refresh your book collection with an assortment of good reads. From eerily prescient tales about dystopian futures to long inter-generational novels about epic family dramas, these are our book recommendations for your quarantine.

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

When you start to feel stir crazy, take solace in the fact that you're probably quarantined within your own home–or at least not a 1960s psych ward. Ken Kesey's 1962 classic captures the frustration of an individual fighting against institutional authority beyond his control.