List of recommended books to read during quarantine

By George Cho || Contributing Writer

Courtesy of Market Watch.

With quarantine keeping the vast majority of the world inside, people have been searching for activities to keep themselves occupied. One of those activities has been picking up a book to read. Of course, that begs the inquiry of what are some good books to read. Hence, within this article is a list of recommended titles categorized by genre and various topics of interest. 

Adventure

A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain (2001) – The book follows the misadventures of American celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, and his travels around the world. Bourdain tells recounts of the native lifestyles and culinary atmosphere of the various countries he travelled to. 

Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea by Steven Callahan (1986) – Steven Callahan is renowned for his tale of survival. He was lost out at the Atlantic Ocean all alone for seventy-six days. The book recounts his story of floating out on his five-foot inflatable raft relying on his instincts and wit. 

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (1977) – Chatwin embodies the spirit of the adventure-seeking traveller. His book tells the tales of his travels through South America. The book’s storytelling style is unique in that it is separated into ninety-seven different sections of varying sizes and deviates from the usual linear structure you would see in most works. 

Fantasy

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968) – Taking place in the fictional island of Earthsea, the novel is a coming of age story of a young boy named Ged as he learns about himself and the mystical powers he possesses. One day, Ged accidentally releases a shadow creature and he embarks on a quest to dispose of it. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011) – Morgenstern utilizes a non-linear narrative set from multiple perspectives to tell the story of a dark and enigmatic circus taking place at night in ahistorical Victorian London. 

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling (1997-2007) – The series chronicles the adventures of a young wizard named Harry Potter and his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, during their days at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The principle arc of the novel series focuses on Harry’s fight against Voldemort, the dark lord who murdered his parents. 

History

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (2011) – Larson tells the story of an American ambassador, William Dodd. He became the first ambassador sent to Germany during Hitler’s regime. Dodd is accompanied by his daughter, Martha, and the two of them recount their harrowing experience of living in the Third Reich. 

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (2000) – The book tells the tragic story of the Essex, an whale ship that sank after an attack from a sperm whale in November of 1820. The story is based on the recounts found in the notebook of Thomas Nickerson, a cabin boy on the Essex, and his sorrowful memories. 

Night by Elie Wiesel (1956) – Wiesel’s work tells the experience he and his father had in the Nazi Germany concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the height of the Holocaust from 1944-1945. It is a short work, but Wiesel goes into extensive details of the roller coaster of emotions he felt and the surreal sights he saw at the camps. 

Historical Fiction

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (2017) – Sullivan’s story follows the life of an Italian teenager, named Pino Lella, who wants to live a normal life and no involvement with the war against Nazis. That all changes when his family’s home gets bombed and he joins an underground railroad to help Jewish people escape. There, he falls in love with a widow named Anna. However, in an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents enlist him in the German army. When he gets injured, he becomes the personal driver for General Hans Leyers, Hitler’s left hand in Italy. The story goes all over the place capturing the horrors of war and the drive of romance. 

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (2000) – Set in Philadelphia during the Yellow Fever Epidemic, Fever 1793 tells the story of a fourteen-year old, named Mattie Cook. The young girl has aspirations of living independently until they’re cut short by the epidemic and she plunges into a living nightmare. 

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) – For context, the Orphan Train Movement was a program that was established in the United States from 1854 to 1929. The trains collected a little over 200,000 homeless, abandoned, or abused children around the East Coast cities. Orphan Train tells a story about the relationship between Molly Ayer (a seventeen year old girl living in foster care) and Vivian Daly (a ninety-one year old widow who rode the Orphan Train). The two of them bond over sharing their experiences with one another. 

Horror

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (1948) – Set in a small fictional town, an annual tradition called the lottery takes place where community members select somebody from the town to pelt them with rocks until they’re dead. It is implicitly implied that the ritual is done to keep the town sane. 

Pet Sematary by Stephen King (1983) – The story is based on King’s greatest fear, losing a loved one. The novel follows Louis Creed whose son is killed after being run over by a truck. In an attempt to bring him back to life, Louis buries his son at an ancient burial ground. Unfortunately, he suffers from the grave consequences of his actions. 

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (2017) – A young couple by the names of Julie and James buy a house from a shady real estate agent. The story follows the torture the house puts them through shapeshifting and beating them physically. Julie and James work to fight their way out of their prison. 

Memoir

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2007) – Beah provides a first hand account of his days as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone. 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005) – Walls tells a story of her poverty-stricken family and how the cruelty of the world stomped on many of their hopes and aspirations while growing up. 

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr (1995) – The memoir details Karr’s troubled childhood during the 1960s in Southeast Texas suffering from an alcoholic and abusive family. 

Mystery

In the Woods by Tana French (2007) – Two Irish Detectives, by the names of Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, are assigned an investigation case to find the murderer of twelve-year old, Katy Devlin.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015) – This thriller is more of a psychological mystery as it revolves around three women by the names of Anna, Rachel, and Megan, their relationship difficulties, and drinking problems. 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) – The story follows a struggling journalist by the name of Mikael Blomkvist who is assigned by Henrik Vanger to find the murderer of his great-niece, Harriet. In a desperate attempt to save his career, Blomkvist accepts the assignment. 

Science At the Edge of Uncertainty by Michael Brooks (2014) – Brooks’ work really makes you think about the skeptical reception people have towards groundbreaking scientific discoveries and how they’re continuing to this day. 

Stephen Hawking’s a Brief History of Time: A Reader’s Companion by Stephen Hawking (1988) – Hawking once stated that he wrote the book purely out of the intent of giving people something new to learn about. He certainly accomplishes that goal as he teaches his scientific theories through his piece. 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011) – For those of you who are interested in psychology or how the mind works, Kahneman takes a deep insight into the many ways we tend to think. 

Science Fiction

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1974) – The basis of the story is humans fighting an interstellar war against an alien civilization called the Taurans. The book makes you contemplate the possible tumultuous relationship humanity might have with alien creatures. 

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood (1985) – This graphic novel tells the story of a dystopian future where environmental disasters and declining birth rates instigate the second American Civil War. 

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969) – A native of Terra, by the name of Genly Ai, is sent out to the planet of Gethen to serve as the Ekumen’s envoy. Ai is on a diplomatic mission to get the nations of Getheren to join the Ekumen but struggles with adapting to their culture and ways of life. 

Sports Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by Buzz Bissinger (1990) – Bissinger tells the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team and their run towards the state championship. At a broader level, the book tells readers the significance of high school football teams to rural communities and their respective ways of life. 

Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos (2002) – Brazil has been linked heavily with soccer (or football). However, Bellos goes into extensive detail of what the game truly signifies to Brazilians and how it is equivalent to their blood and oxygen for them. 

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis (2003) – The book details the strategy that Billy Beane, the owner of the Oakland Athletics, and his economic strategy at putting together a competitive baseball team using extensive sabermetrics. His strategy has had great impacts on the front office operations of many current MLB teams. 

Whether you’re getting back into reading or looking for another book to read, we certainly hope you’ll take one of these titles into consideration. All of these books are available for digital purchase on Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, and Google Books. Happy reading! 

Sophomore George Cho is a Contributing Writer. His email is gcho@fandm.edu.

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