Obviously, it’s a weird time to be alive. I won’t say much more about COVID-19 here, other than the fact that I am grateful to find solace in books while home-bound.
In that vein, I asked our editors and frequent contributors to send over a book or two that has made their quarantine more manageable. Some of these are old favorites, some are new finds, but all are solid picks to stave off your quarantine-fueled boredom, and maybe even provide a little hope or inspiration in moments of chaos and confusion.
Leonora Simonovis Recommends: While they Sleep, Under the Bed is Another Country by Raquel Salas Rivera
“I recommend While They Sleep, Under the Bed is Another Country by Raquel Salas Rivera, a bilingual poetry collection written in the aftermath of hurricane Maria. Salas Rivera’s poems journey between two spaces, both on the page, and also metaphorically. The lines in English take up space on the main page, while the ones in Spanish are relegated to the footnotes. The speaker questions notions of belonging and identity, of history and exclusion, as well as a fragmented and disconnected dialogue that has been in place for over a century between two nations, their languages, and their cultures.”
“When I studied with Luc Sante, a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he said something that I think about every time I reach for a book. “It’s like the movies I like the most,” he said. “The ones that stick with me aren’t the ones I agree with or that make me laugh the hardest; the great ones are the ones that leave me asking questions.”
Teddy Wayne’s Apartment is about a tenuous friendship between two men enrolled in Columbia University’s creative writing M.F.A. program in 1996. Apartment is about what happens when two men living under one roof examine their relationship with class, power, gender, and sexuality and how it changes their relationship with each other. Unferth’s Barn 8 explores two women’s identities after they hatch a plan to free one million chickens. Unferth loves whacky, quirky characters that seem so real; it’s calming. Both novels are about how a single decision can alter the course of a life. They sit like bookends on my nightstand. Having read both in one go, I’m still asking myself questions–important questions.”
Patricia Steckler Recommends: The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan
“Solid social psychology research points to how mood and mind-changing a daily habit of listing just five simple items to feel grateful for, can be health and happiness-promoting while significantly reducing stress. The Gratitude Diaries weaves social science findings and recommendations into an easy-to-digest format. Janice Kaplan, the author, a journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of Parade magazine, details her year incorporating gratitude into her life and how it changed her marriage, her work, her health, and her general outlook.
Now, as this frightening pandemic invades our country, finding gratitude is more challenging than ever, and yet more important. From appreciating a powder puff blossom popping in a neighborhood park to moments of joy when my 60-70-year-old tech-deficient psychology colleagues make video contact with our patients to all of us uttering the new greeting, meant genuinely: Be Well, there is much to be grateful for.”
Maayan D’Antonio Recommends: A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard
“I just finished reading this beautiful collection of short stories “A Cathedral of Myth and Bone” by Kat Howard. The stories are poetically visceral and captivating as Howard explorers myth and faith in haunting and unexpected ways. No word is wasted or misplaced as Howard utilizes every bit of the short form. The perfect short escape when one is tired of working from home of turning into a vegetable in front of Netflix.”
Summer Christiansen Recommends: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
“A few sentences on my favorite book: Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, The Snow Child, follows Jack and Mabel as they start their new life in 1920’s Alaska as homesteaders. When their lives begin to spiral downward, something magical happens.”
Recommended by Katie Centabar: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
“Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is a fun and compelling read about women of a certain age rediscovering themselves and their voices with the help of a flailing 20-something. A playful and sexy exploration of courage, friendship and pleasure, Erotic Stories is an age-inclusive romp that would make your mother blush. You‘re guaranteed a good time!”
Rebecca Valley Recommends: come the slumberless to the land of nod by traci brimhall and The Mysterious affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
I am double-dosing books lately by reading and listening. I just finished Traci Brimhall’s Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod which reads like a surreal, waking dream – she investigates murder, motherhood, and myth, among other things, in a book of poems fragmented by lyric essays that are so incredible I read them all twice. She is also doing a free virtual book launch on April 9th with Copper Canyon Press, if you want a teaser.
I am also listening to my very favorite podcast to happen this decade – the inimitable Phoebe Judge reads one chapter a day of Agatha Christie’s debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Ideal for escaping reality and keeping your brain occupied with images of prized begonias and poisoned cocoa.