Some people spent their quarantined time binge watching television shows or making sourdough bread. I am not “some people.”
Reading is balm for my soul, and April gifted me with lots of time to hunker down and read.
I purposefully chose books I knew would make me feel good (thank you, Humans of New York and Big Magic). And I chose some that I knew I could get lost in (thank you, The House of the Spirits).
I’ve had mixed feelings about the quarantine. But one thing I’ll always appreciate about it is the wonderful excuse to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night to read without feeling any guilt.
Anyway, I’m still on a reading rampage, and I’m always collecting book recommendations. What books have kept you company during the lockdown?
Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: This book was everything I needed in this super strange and stressful time of a global pandemic. I laughed, had all the feels, felt others’ pain, and was instantly connected to people. Every single page was an invitation into a much-appreciated conversation.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: I waited to read this book for the perfect moment, complete with a mug of tea and pencil to take notes in the margins. Nothing in this book was earth-shattering, yet it spoke to me on so many levels and I savored every word. I occasionally need affirmation and inspiration to create, and this book definitely kicked me in that direction.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Lots of people say this book is like an extended Ted Talk, and in some ways it is. It’s the best kind of Ted Talk, though, because it challenges you, makes you question what you think you know, and you walk away a bit more thoughtful (if not a bit smarter). There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding in the world, and if everyone read this book, I think we’d be on our way to having better, more nuanced conversations.
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: Chernobyl is a weirdly fascinating place, but once you understand the bureaucracy and all the events the led up to the nuclear disaster that occurred there April 1986, it is all the more eye-opening. This book is incredibly well researched, transparent, and fairly balanced. Higginbotham made a complicated disaster accessible and available for readers to understand — because the actions the Soviet Union took to save face could easily take place again today.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Readable and riveting, I tore through The Girl Who Feel From the Sky in just a few days. It deals with lots of complicated issues (interracial relationships, addiction, suicide, etc.), but it does it in a thoughtful, considered, and realistic way. This easily could have gone off the rails and pushed the “extreme” edges of trauma for these characters, but I appreciate that it didn’t.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: Thank you, Ness, for writing a clever, readable YA book that is both a bit fantastical and relatable. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is well-written with likable characters and was an appropriately timely distraction in the age of COVID-19. Long story short: We all have baggage and issues even as the world goes on around us.
The Writer’s Roadmap: Paving the Way To Your Ideal Writing Life by Leigh Shulman (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: Shulman is a long-time friend and colleague of mine, and she’s perfected a plan that helps people outline and reach their goals. Though written for people with writing-specific goals, the strategy outlined here can be applied to professional goal-setting in general. For those who need more guidance or support to follow through and follow up, visit Shulman’s online writing resources and blog.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2/5 stars)
Three-line review: Clearly this book is loved and lauded by a lot of people, but I just wasn’t that into it. Admittedly, I thought this band was real the whole time I was reading, and that is, in large part, why I didn’t feel connected or interested in the story; knowing now that it’s fiction, I just feel dumb. Thankfully I listened to the audio book, which was a well cast and mixed production, but the story would have been a snooze if I’d just read it in book form.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (5/5 stars)
Three-line review: I’m a sucker for rich, character-driven sagas, and this book did not disappoint. Translated from Spanish, The House of the Spirits follows the story of three generations of women in the shadow of the wretched patriarch, Esteban. It is a drawn-out and beautifully told story of revolution, family, relationships, violence, and growth, sprinkled with magical realism and mysticism.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: What Americans learn in high school history classes is a sanitized and white-washed account of events written by the upper class at the expense of the average people. This expansive, well-researched, eye-opening book of suppression, oppression, and revolution is a must-read companion to the traditionally known and told version of U.S. history. This is the history of the vast majority of people, and it is incredibly important to read, understand, and share with others.
All This I Will Give to You by Dolores Redondo (4/5 stars)
Three-line review: It’s been a while since I’ve read a good mystery novel, and this one had lots of curious turns that kept me guessing. Redondo did a wonderful job weaving in character flaws and knotted plot points that led this story all over the place. Overall, I enjoyed the story and found the end satisfying, but the pacing was a bit plodding at times.