What Books to Read at Home Right Now

I’d like to start this post out by just saying how appreciative I am of people who are good in a crisis. I’m sending all of my gratitude and love to all of our healthcare workers, PPE manufacturers, those particular leaders in government who are telling the truth and helping their constituents, postal and delivery workers, grocery store employees, and so many more.

While I’m not good in a crisis myself {thanks, anxiety}, I *am* good at recommending books to people. Many who are home right now are reading for the first time in a while, either in an effort to disconnect or because this is the only extra time they’ve had since high school to curl up with a book. Since I’m getting a lot of questions about what I recommend, I thought I’d gather up my suggestions in this post.

All the author and title links you’ll find here will take you to one of my favorite independent bookshops in Brooklyn, Greenlight Bookstore, which also happens to be the one closest to my home. At the time of publication, they are still fulfilling online orders and can ship anywhere in the US. Please never buy your books from Amazon, especially at a time where small businesses need our help and for myriad reasons I won’t get into here because that’s not the type of post this is. You can also download books from your local libraries and read them on your phone or larger devices using the Overdrive or Libby apps.

{For many more book recommendations, follow me on Good Reads and on my new-in-fall “Bookstagram” account and visit this post I wrote about what I read in 2018.}

“Comfort Reads”

Just like a grilled cheese sandwich and a marathon of “The Office” can bring comfort, so can your favorite reads from childhood. Dig up those collections of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little House, and Winnie the Pooh {A.A. Milne’s versions}.

If you loved the American Girl series growing up, I highly recommend working your way through the collection while listening to the “American Girls” Podcast in which two historians who were kids in the ’90s review each book. They discuss what was going on in the world while the books were being written and analyze the books through lenses of history and feminism.

One book that is of particular comfort to me, though I didn’t read it until I moved to NYC, is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. I’m due for a re-read.

“Armchair Travel” Until We Can Travel IRL Again

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Since this is technically a travel blog, it would be silly not to mention a few books that can transport you to another country or universe with their sensory details, without you having to leave your living room.

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed remains one of my favorites of all time and transports readers completely to a hiking adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail. The memoir is beautifully written by one of my literary heroes and Strayed is also isolated for most of the journey.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens was one of the most popular books of 2018 and 2019. It’s a fabulous read that not only transports you to the North Carolina marshes, but also keeps you guessing with a murder mystery. I was lucky enough on a random fall weekend I came home to NJ that the author was holding an event at the Ocean City boardwalk. I attended with my parents and about 800 other people and got a signed copy.

Travel to Cuba with Chanel Cleeton’s “Next Year in Havana” and the sequel {which I haven’t read yet}, “When We Left Cuba”. Travel across the US with John Steinbeck and his dog in “Travels With Charley”. Travel to Naples, Italy with Elena Ferrante and her Neapolitan novels, starting with “My Brilliant Friend”. Several have recommended these not-yet-read books to me and there is an HBO show to accompany them if you’re interested in a multi-media experience.

We will all travel in real life again when it is safe to do so and it will be important to help build up the economies of areas that depend on tourism, but for now, let’s travel through books instead.

Thrillers You Won’t Put Down to Check Twitter

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These are the types of books I’m finding I can best escape in at this time. Page turners are called that for a reason, you are on the edge of your seat and need to keep reading to find out what is going on. These books allow you to forget about the real world for a few hours, and it’s okay to forget about the real world for a little bit.

“Long Bright River” by Liz Moore is one of my favorite reads so far in 2020. It is long but engrossing, about sisters who live very different lives in Philly. One is a police officer and the other struggles with addiction and runs into trouble frequently. “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides is about a woman in prison for killing her husband and the psychotherapist who tries to get her to speak about the incident, when she hasn’t said a word since it happened. “You Are Not Alone” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen tells the story of a woman who gets caught up in a web of mystery when she is witness to someone jumping on the subway tracks. I’ve enjoyed all three of this writing pair’s books, though this may be my fave so far.

Other recommendations in this genre are “The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn {be sure to read the insane New Yorker article about the author AFTER you read the book}, “The Family Upstairs” by Lisa Jewell, “Tell Me Everything” by Cambria Brockman, “Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager, “A Nearly Normal Family”, and “Not That I Could Tell” by Jessica Strawser.

Ruth Ware‘s books aren’t really thrillers, but are more like old-school mysteries such as those by Agatha Christie. I’ve read “The Woman in Cabin 10” {maybe skip for now, it takes place on a cruise}, “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, “The Turn of the Key”, and “The Death of Mrs. Westaway”. I’ve actually been saving her other book, “The Lying Game”, for a time when I feel like I need a guaranteed good read, which might be right about now.

Masterpieces From Incredibly Talented Storytellers

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My favorite reads by my four writer crushes {each of whom I’ve also seen in person in NYC} are “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert {about showgirls in NYC in the 1940s}, “The Dutch House” and “Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett {two very different family dramas}, “Swingtime” by Zadie Smith {My friend Katie also LOVES “On Beauty”}, and anything by the aforementioned {and soon to be mentioned again} Cheryl Strayed.

A writer who reminds me of Ann Patchett is Mary Beth Keane, at least in her “Ask Again, Yes” that is my other favorite read this year so far. Celeste Ng is another great storyteller with “Everything I Never Told You” and “Little Fires Everywhere” {which is also currently running as a fantastic miniseries starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington on Hulu}. Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote amazing life stories in interesting ways about a singer {perhaps based off Stevie Nicks} in “Daisy Jones & the Six” and an actress {perhaps based off Elizabeth Taylor} in “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”.

One of the most unique stories I’ve read in a while was Madeline Miller’s “Circe”, a reimagining of tales within Greek Mythology. I’m not normally one for fantasy aside from those I read as a kid, but I was so swept up in this beautiful novel.

A Book That Is Like a Giant Hug

Just to mention Cheryl Strayed a third time, “Tiny, Beautiful Things” is a gorgeous collection of letters she wrote in response to letters she received when she was the advice columnist at The Rumpus. She has the right words to say for every situation and writes the letters of advice as little stories about situations that she herself has gone through, then relates them back beautifully to the issues at hand. This is the book I wish I had with me the most during this quarantine, but it on a shelf at my other home, awaiting my return.

Take care of yourselves out there. I love you.


1 Response

  1. Terri Breslin

    Thank you for your post, Erin! Hope you are okay. Are you in NY or NJ? I’m glad to be home in Avalon. We were in Clearwater from March 1st to the 20th (were supposed to be there through the end of March). I hope your family is okay too.

    Mrs. B

    Sent from my iPad



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