Monday, April 13, 2020

Reading in a Quarantine

Reprinted from

So much has changed since my last column back in March. Most of us are home, many either working or home schooling during this most challenging time. In between watching the nonstop press conferences and news updates, we look for something to take us away, if only for a little while.

This month’s Book Report will give you some ideas for books to read while you are home. Independent bookstores are hurting, like everyone else, and if you want to support a bookstore near you, you can find one on 

For people who enjoy literary fiction, Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward about a young boy who is the only survivor of plane crash, is heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s a Read With Jenna pick from the Today Show. 

 Another pick from the club is Abi DarĂ©’s debut novel The Girl With The Louding Voice about Adunni, a young Nigerian girl who overcomes many obstacles in her quest to get an education. Both Edward and Adunni are unforgettable characters. 

If you like fiction set in the 1950s, there are several good novels out now. Louise Erdrich’s new novel, The Night Watchman is based on her grandfather, a Native American who fights to stop the US government from taking land from his tribe. 

Gretchen Berg’s The Operator is set in a small town in 1950s Ohio, where a telephone operator listens in on a phone call that will change her life. The main character reminded me of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and it has been recommended for fans of TV’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Lara Prescott’s debut novel, The Secrets We Kept tells the story of secretaries in the CIA during the cold war who are recruited to help smuggle Boris Pasternak’s novel, Doctor Zhivago out of Russia.  Fans of Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series will like this one.

If you liked TV’s The Crown, Georgie Blalock’s novel The Other Windsor Girl, is a fictionalized account of the fascinating life of Princess Margaret, as seen through the eyes of one of her assistants. 

If mysteries or thrillers are the type of books that take you away, there are some terrific ones out now. Chris Bohjalian follows up his hugely popular The Flight Attendant from last year with this year’s The Red Lotus about an NYC emergency room doctor whose boyfriend goes missing on a bike tour in Vietnam. She discovers that he was not entirely truthful about what he was doing there, and it involves a possible worldwide pandemic. 

New in paperback mysteries are Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy about a black female spy in the CIA in 1986 who has to either betray the man she loves or her country as she is tasked with helping to encourage a coup in a Communist Burkina Faso. 

Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister finds a woman having to team with her long-estranged sister to save her stepson from a murder accusation. It’s a real puzzler as to who is hiding what here. 

For those who like something lighter, Christina Lauren’s The Honey-Don’t List, has main characters who are home design gurus, (think Chip and Joanna Gaines). 
Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test is about a successful Vietnamese businessman on the autism spectrum living in the US whose mother returns to Vietnam to find the perfect bride for him.

If you prefer nonfiction and you’re missing baseball, Jesse Dougherty’s Buzzsaw- The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series will fill the void for you. 

If you’re watching a lot of movies, Brian Raftery’s Best.Movie.Year.Ever- How 1999 Blew Up The Big Screen is about all of the great movie releases from 1999, like Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Office Space, The Blair Witch Project and more. It will add to your watchlist. 

If you’re spending a lot of time in the kitchen, Erin Gardner’s Procrastibaking-100 Recipes for Getting Nothing Done in the Best Way Possible will help you find a tasty, productive way to avoid the rest of your home responsibilities. 

If you’re looking for something to keep the kiddies busy, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series has several titles that are perfect for early chapter book readers. 
Another series that is great for parents to read aloud as a family is Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

I hope you stay safe and well and home. We’ll get through this all together.

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