We are only a couple weeks into shelter-in-place, and I’m sure at this point many of you are over self-quarantining. With all the time off, it can be hard to find things to keep you busy and pass the time. For all the readers out there, this is a great chance to catch up on all that reading. You know that pile of books on your nightstand that you keep saying you’ll get to? Now you can cross those off your list, and dive into some new material. Below you will find a versatile list of books that may pique your interest.
1.“The Touches” by Brenda Peynado
This dystopian short story takes place in an apocalyptic, futuristic, touchless society where all of humanity has adapted to living in isolated cubicles, where robots assist them with basic human necessities, known as “the Dirty” or the real world, due to bacteria and viruses becoming completely resistant to all medications. Everyday they log into “the Clean” or the realistic virtual world that was created to continue with normal life. As disturbing as this may seem, given the current circumstances, it’s still a good, short read with very interesting dystopian possibilities. “The Touches” has elements of both romance and science fiction. It can be read for free on Tor.com.
2. “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin
“The Awakening,” was a very controversial work of its time and landed itself on the banned book list for its supposedly “immoral” depictions of female sexual desire and a main character that completely breaks social norms and gender roles. The 300-page novel follows Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother, and her family as they vacation at the ritzy Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico. Edna meets a charming, young man named Robert and they soon form a connection that leads to Edna falling in love. The story has a central theme of a woman caught in between wanting to express her unorthodox views on femininity, yet still maintain her maternal duties. This was one of the first feminist novels of its time, and is a strong example of “early feminism.” This literary classic is available for free in PDF form, or can be ordered online.
3. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman
This touching novel by Swedish New York Times-bestselling author Fredrik Backman, follows the life of Ove, a retired senior, who is still grieving the death of his beloved wife. Ove’s quiet, simple life is interrupted when a young and overly friendly family moves in next door and flattens his mailbox. On the outside, Ove is cranky, overly sarcastic, and is known as the “neighbor from hell,” but underneath, he is a broken man in need of relationships. If you enjoy heartwarming stories that move you to tears, this is one you want to add to your list. There are e-book versions of this available for download through multiple platforms, or it can be ordered online.
4. “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski
Now this one is a little complicated to explain. According to the description on the book itself, many years ago, “House of Leaves” was an unpublished heap of papers that was passed around amongst the younger generations, that eventually was adapted as a novel in 2000, with all the original footnotes and artwork. This novel is a difficult read, since it follows multiple storylines, with several different narrators that interact with each other in chronological footnotes and commentary. It is a story within a story within a story, that begins with a young man, Johnny Truant, who discovers a mangled essay written by a dead, blind man named Zumpano, who lived in his apartment complex. The essay is a detailed account of the documentary “The Navidson Record,” which follows the unexpected events of a family who moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane. They film their horrifying experiences in their home when they discover the home is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, with a five-and-a-half minute hallway and a never ending spiral staircase that plunges deeper and deeper into the abyss. “House of Leaves” sometimes feels like information overload; a puzzle filled with mysteries and unciphered codes, but getting to the end is worth it. It is best to read this horror/thriller in print, given the text goes every which way on certain pages. Some may even want to write notes in the margins. Currently, it is available to be ordered online.
5. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy
This Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, is for those who are young at heart and enjoy picture books. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” however, is not a children’s book, but a book for all ages as the author states in the introduction. This “Winnie the Pooh-like” work was called “a book of hope for uncertain times,” by the New York Times and is a collection of wonderful encouraging phrases woven together in a story of friendship and adventure. Four friends embark on a journey to find home, but they discover home is so much more than a place. The book features unique watercolor artwork done by Mackesy, that shows the beauty of imperfection. If you’re looking for an uplifting, short read to cheer you up during these times, try this out. I’d highly recommend getting a print copy, but there are online versions available.
6. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is an incredibly eye-opening novel about where our food comes from, a question many have never considered. This novel explores the dilemma Americans face when it comes to understanding how the food we buy at the store got from wherever it was made or raised to our tables, and why we need to understand this more deeply, because it could change the entire American perspective of food and consumption altogether. Pollan documents his experiences tracing the origins of our food right back to the factory they were made in. The things he reveals about the food industry will shock you. This is a great read for those who are looking into altering their diet in some way for health reasons. This book may have the answers you’re looking for. It is available in many e-book versions or can be ordered online.
7. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
This philosophical, gothic novel, which went through multiple rounds of publication, was one of the most controversial works of its time. The work was first published in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, but the editor deleted roughly 500 words from the original without Wilde’s knowledge before publishing, for fear of the story offending the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers of that era. Wilde defended his novel aggressively and had it revised and lengthened for publishing the following year with a memorable preface defending his right as an artist. This preface soon became a literary and artistic manifesto for artists around the world. The novel centers around a portrait of a man named Dorian Gray, who is deeply disturbed by aging and the fading of beauty. He decides to sell his soul in return for eternal youth. As the years go by, he does not age, but his portrait ages and is collecting a record of the many sins committed in his wildly passionate, immortal life, that may come back to bite him. This novel is available on e-book platforms and can be ordered online.
8. “The Incendiaries” by R.O. Kwon
This novel follows two college students, Phoebe and Will, who are complete opposites. Will, a Bible college transfer, is drawn to Phoebe, and becomes convinced he is in love with her. Phoebe, however, becomes obsessed with a religious extremist cult that is founded by a former student who has questionable connections to Phoebe’s Korean American family. After the cult decides to bomb multiple buildings which end up taking five people’s lives, Phoebe disappears and Will becomes determined to find her. “The Incendiaries” is a fractured love story and an interesting examination of the minds and actions of extremist terrorists, and how far people will go for love. This book is available on multiple e-book platforms or can be ordered online.
9. “Lullabies” by Lang Leav
This gorgeous book of poetry is magic in writing. Lang Leav fills this book with short, thoughtful poems and short stories that reflect life, love, passion and beauty. If you’re looking for something unique and modern to add to your poetry collection, “Lullabies” and other works by Leav are a good place to start. “Lullabies” carries a musical theme, starting with Duet, then flowing into Interlude and ending with Finale. The book also features Leav’s own unique artwork. Leav says in the introduction, “I imagine it to be a bedside table kind of book – hopefully, one that you will pick up on some windy, restless night and it will help sing you to sleep.” “Lullabies” is available to read in PDF format for free, but I would recommend reading it in print. Good news is, it can be ordered online.
10. “The Seas” by Samantha Hunt
“The Seas,” Samantha Hunt’s debut novel, is a whimsical tale that follows a 19-year-old, nameless outcast who lives in a small, remote, seaside town. She lives with her dictionary-obsessed grandfather and mother. The no-name narrator is convinced that she is a mermaid, in which she believes she inherited from her allegedly deceased father, who walked into the sea one night and never came back. Additionally, she is lovesick for a local Iraqi war veteran who is 13 years her senior. Her delusional state and rebellious behavior lands her in jail, and how she escapes is quite unforgettable. American author Michelle Tea called “The Seas”, “creepy and poetic, subversive and strangely funny, a phenomenal piece of literature.” Hunt received a National Book Foundation award for this novel. “The Seas” can be found on multiple e-book platforms or can be ordered online, but the book has some elements that are much better to experience in print.