what to read during quarantine
Right now, in the midst of this pandemic — while most of us are sheltering-in-place at home for weeks on end — is such a perfect opportunity to find a little more reading time each day. On my end, now that my commute to work consists of walking downstairs and sitting at my desk, that extra half-hour-ish of reading in bed every morning is like a gift.
For two weeks, over on our Facebook page and on Instagram — every day, in the early afternoon — I shared fourteen book suggestions. These are books that I find either completely absorbing and a bit magical, or immensely comforting … perfect reading material, in other words, for troubled times.
One book each day.
No reviews per se, just suggestions. Plus a few notes on why I love them and why I hope you might enjoy reading them during our communal down time.
I’ve gathered the first seven books — the first week’s worth — here.
If you’ve already read any or all of these books, let me know what you think of them.
If you haven’t yet read these but would like to, please consider ordering a copy from one of the shops on our Novel Cat list of favorite indie bookstores … or order from our Novel Cat storefront at Bookshop.org — where your purchase helps support all their brick-and-mortar member bookstores. Or, if you prefer to get books from your public library — but can’t, obviously, go there at the moment — try the Libby app, which lets you borrow ebooks from your own local library, for free. All you need is your library card.
#1: Persuasion …
Book suggestion number 1 is a classic. But not the title you might expect me to recommend when I say it’s by Jane Austen. I’ve read all of her novels (several of them multiple times), and my favorite by far is Persuasion. This book — the last complete novel she wrote — is quiet and melancholy, but immensely satisfying in the end. Definitely a good one to lose yourself in for a day or two.
#2: The Night Circus …
I promised a bit of magic in some of these book suggestions, and book number 2 does not disappoint in that regard. The Night Circus — by Erin Morgenstern — is filled to the brim with mystery and magic and lush settings. And there are even kittens.
Erin Morgenstern’s writing is, apparently, not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you, too, are a visual person whose best thoughts and daydreams come to you as vivid movie reels, you may well adore this book as much as I do. It’s intensely visual — and the circus and its inhabitants are so *alive* — that it’s a magical place to get lost in for a few days.
And lest I forget to mention: in my opinion, the ending of this one was perfect. (For me, that’s always one of the keys to deciding how much I love a good book.)
To my mind, some of the best sorts of novels to get lost in are puzzling, beautifully written, and loaded with delicious details. The slightly challenging books, in other words, that require — and reward — complete focus, patience, and time. One book that ticks all those boxes is The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley.
#4: Dandelion Wine …
Another good sort of book to get completely lost in? One so full of gorgeous, poetic writing and imagery that the setting and the season — in this case, one childhood summer — become as vivid as a perfect summer day. On the off chance you haven’t already read this one, book suggestion number 4 is Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.
While reading these interconnected stories, don’t be surprised if you find yourself, in your’s mind’s eye, on the porch or in a hammock … enjoying the shade; the drowsy, warm breeze; the scent of flowers; the buzzing of bees; and the taste of summer.
#5: The Uninvited Guests …
Although this book starts out as a domestic drama in an early-20th-century English manor-house, you’ll soon begin to realize that things are a bit “off.” And, then, events take a turn toward the truly strange. I found this book to be delightfully odd, and oddly delightful.
#6: The Starless Sea …
Book suggestion number 6 is another utterly unique book by Erin Morgenstern: her recently released “sophomore” title, The Starless Sea. This lush, strange, gorgeous tale celebrates stories and the art of story-telling. It’s full of magic, books, and cats … and fairy tales that are positively alive, spiraling in on themselves and outward into new versions. This book, like her first, is intensely visual and after inhabiting these magical, otherworldly locations while reading the book, I came away wishing they were, in fact, real.
#7: Peace Like a River …
Book suggestion number 7 is one I haven’t actually read in a long, long time. I first enjoyed Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River more than 15 years ago. I remember that, at the time, I couldn’t stop raving about it. How it was both weird and wise, sad yet hopeful, and sprinkled throughout with mysticism and magic. And I loved it so much that I lent my copy to a friend … and then never got it back. I’ve only recently found another copy, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it soon. If you haven’t yet read this one, I hope you’ll give it a try.
Hi there! I’m Jennifer, and I want you to know this: Reading books makes us happier & healthier, but most of us have forgotten how to indulge in cozy reading time. Cats, though; they haven’t forgotten the art of indulgence. So I help busy readers — like you — be more like house cats, because indulging in quiet, cozy spaces is the key to unlocking the magic of a good book.
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“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”
W. Somerset Maugham
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”
“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”
“What a happy woman I am, living in a garden, with books … birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”
Elizabeth von Arnim
“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
“The art of reading is … an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us; when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
“When I … looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.”
Elizabeth von Arnim