If you’re turning to books to keep busy during quarantine, we asked some local readers, “Which titles can give us something else to think about right now?” Whether you like the classics, non-fiction or some good ol’ escapist fun, we’ve got you covered.
Ken Bugajski is the founder of Read26FW, a group of local readers who challenge themselves to read at least 26 books each year. He provides a collection of titles for whatever a reader needs during quarantine.
“Persuasion,” by Jane Austen
Need to escape? Try “Persuasion.” It has the same wit, romance and social satire of “Pride and Prejudice,” along with “one of the greatest love letters in literature,” Bugajski said.
“North and South,” by Elizabeth Gaskell
For an epic read—that’s with the word’s original meaning: a saga—Bugajski suggested this long novel from 1854, a coming-of-age story with class conflict, tragedy and romance on the side. Charles Dickens was Gaskell’s publisher, so this is a great read for Dickens’ fans.
“Every Day,” by David Levithan
If you’re looking to challenge yourself, Bugajski suggested this young adult novel, which asks the essential identify questions, “Who are you, and how do you know?”
“Nights in White Castle,” by Steve Rushin
“If you’re feeling nostalgic, this high school and college memoir is both a sentimental and funny look at 1980s Midwestern life,” Bugajski said.
“Meet Me at the Museum,” by Anne Youngson
“Museum” is a thoughtful epistolary novel told between two 50-somethings, and the book “examines how the decisions we make, or don’t, determine who we become,” Bugajski said.
“Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World,” by Mark Kurlansky
“Cod” is perfect for fans of unusual histories, said Tasha Bushnell, manager at Hyde Brothers in Fort Wayne. Ditto that for …
“A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire,” by Amy Butler Greenfield
This dives into the world history of and search for the perfect color red, which was a source of power and wealth.
“The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness,” by Sy Montgomery
Looking to expand your mind during shelter-in-place? Bushnell pointed to “Octopus”—which explores the physical and emotional world of the octopus, and the connections they can make with humans—and …
“The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma,” by Bessel van der Kolk
Want to get a little real while the world’s best scientists are trying to find a vaccine for COVID-19? ‘“Score” shows that the terror and isolation at the core of trauma literally reshape both brain and body,” according to van der Kolk’s website.
“War and Peace,” by Leo Tolstoy
Need a tome you can completely get lost in? How about one that’s more than a half a million words? Bushnell suggested the OG Russian writers, Tolstoy and …
“Crime and Punishment,” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Which, by comparison, has only 200,000.
“My Name is Asher Lev,” by Chaim Potok
Want to lose yourself in a story? Bushnell suggested “Asher Lev,” a young adult novel from 1972 about a boy born in Brooklyn. He has a gift for art, a world with beliefs that conflict with his parents’ devout Judaism. Bushnell also suggested …
“Mistborn,” by Brandon Sanderson
… the first in a seven-part series that asks, “What if the hero of prophecy fails?”
“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” by Jenny Lawson
This is a go-to book recommendation from Leslie Chalfant, a New Haven reader who estimates she made it through 57 books last year. The reason she keeps suggesting “Let’s Pretend”? It’s hilarious—which is a great way to forget about a global pandemic for a moment.
“Before We Were Yours,” by Lisa Wingate
Chalfant suggested googling the villain, Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage for extra imagery in this fictionalized true story.
“One Of Us Is Lying,” by Karen McManus
An A+ whodunit with some seriously manipulative teenagers. “Some parts made me want to slam the book shut in outrange,” Chalfant said, “but I had to know what happened next.”
“A Girl Named Zippy,” by Haven Kimmel
This memoir has a familiar setting—“Zippy” is set in Mooreland, Indiana, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis—and provides a fun look into the pranks siblings pull on one another.
“The Reckoning of Gossamer Pond,” by Jaime Jo Wright
“This gripping read swaps between timelines and characters’ experiences with death,” Chalfant said.
“The Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, by Jodi Taylor
If you need to get away, you can’t go wrong with this series about time-traveling librarians, from Bonnie Penhollow. She estimates she read about 125 books last year.
“The Traitor,” by V.S. Alexander
Perfect for World War II fans, Penhollow said, “The Traitor” is based on the White Rose, a student-led, non-violent group in the Third Reich.
“Salvage the Bones,” by Jesmyn Ward
Penhollow wared: This novel, about a family’s struggle to survive during Hurricane Katrina, is not for “fans of light fiction where everything works out beautifully in the end.”