Reading in the time of quarantine is a tricky one because—what to read? You don’t want to get even more depressed but you don’t want something that doesn’t at least in some way pay homage to this alternative world we’re currently living in. Here are a few book options that hit the right note, but are not about pandemics.
And just FYI – none of the links below are affiliate links. I’m too lazy to figure out how all that works, but they do all go to IndieBound!
1. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
This is the perfect pandemic read because A. there are fire children who are isolated from the rest of the world in a house of their own with a very comprehensive sprinkler system. They have to home school, entertain each other, etc. It’s quarantine without the pandemic! And B. the fire children learn to use yoga and zen meditation to control their rage flames, which is something we all might glean a thing or two from. Buy here.
2. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Sort of like how that idiot Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said that older people should go back to work and die rather than let Covid-19 harm the American economy… in the Old Man’s War once the elderly reach retirement age they join the Colonial Defense Force where they serve two years on the front guarding Earth. The plus side is that they get an awesome, young new body, the downside is that they might not survive long enough to enjoy it. Buy here.
3. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshegh
What could be more appropriate for now, minus the actual pandemic, than a young woman who decides to hibernate in her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment with a lot of shady pill combinations to aid in her healing journey? The result: social distancing, lots of sleep, and a long, hard look inside yourself that might even be restorative. Just like staying home right now, this novel is vacuous yet complicated but has some good tips for how to be super detached from what’s going on around you. Buy Here.
4. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
There’s nothing quite like a thriller for some great, immersive distraction reading and this one will warn you off cruises forever, as you should be after all the news about how cruising in the time of coronavirus has gone. Plus, should you find yourself on a cruise ship in the near future and you need to escape with your life, this book has a few ideas for that including which work and which don’t. Buy here.
5. Wild Life: Dispatches from a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs by Keena Roberts.
This family-friendly memoir is a great one for social distancing because the author grew up with a split life: one spent on an island camp in Botswana sleeping in a tent, reading a lot, cooking over a campfire, and trying not to die when being chased by lions. The other life: navigating the social hierarchy of a preppy private school. Guess which one was more fun? This will make your isolated life at home feel just right. Buy here.
6. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
WHY CAN’T THIS BOOK BE TRUE!? If you’re mentally strong enough to let yourself dabble in what could have been without going off the rail with anger at what happened instead, then this is the book for you. It’s an alternate reality of 2016-2020, a world we would all be better off living in, a world that has a dynamic lady-leader, her bi-racial kids, and instead of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry it’s the President’s son and the English equivalent who have a fantastic, gossipy USA + UK love affair. Buy here.
7. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer
We’re online a lot right at the moment so what better way to troll your friends than by correcting their quarantine posts? Copy edit those “10 unpopular opinions” or “just for fun, 12 things you didn’t know about me” Facebook lists that drive you nuts. I promise that once you start doing this with the help and humor of Dryer’s novel, not only will your friends block you—which by now will a blessing—but you’ll also be a better writer by the end of this social distancing phase. Buy here.
8. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
How pandemic-perfect is this premise without being overtly so? Nine people gather at a remote health resort to reboot their life, or practice mindfulness and meditation, or lose some weight, or reconnect with loved ones, etc. Little do they know that the incompetent, self-involved, money-grubbing, psychotic, power-hungry, hotel-owner of Tranquillum House has a freakish agenda of their own. Sound familiar? I thought so too. Buy here.