Best Books to Read in Isolation
By now, all of us have realized the amount of time we’d invested in our day-to-day (pre-pandemic). Some things feel obsolete and arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. It’s clear things will change after quarantines and sheltering in place orders are lifted. In the meantime, most of us have already seen the “new normal” wherever we have been isolating.
Virtual hangouts and video chats are how we get our much needed “face time” with our besties. The fashion industry has bellied up to their sewing machines to produce much-needed masks for those working tirelessly on the front lines to keep us safe, healthy, and fed. Many of us are turning to our kitchens for comfort. Cooking and baking supplies flew off the store shelves as families committed to staying and cooking at home, together.
Reports are showing now more than ever what isolation can do to your overall sense of health and wellness. Being in the same rooms for days on end can get monotonous if you don’t keep yourself active and occupied. Our best go-to for keeping the brain fit is – you guessed it – picking up a good book! It’s affordable, engaging, easy to share, and there is no need to plug it in overnight (unless you enjoy reading eBooks). Best of all, creating a book club while sheltering in place a perfect excuse for scheduling a weekly video chat with friends and family to share your hypotheses and observations.
The sheltering in place order gave me the opportunity to become more present and appreciative of my space. I have created intentions for creating clearer work-life boundaries as I am now meeting deadlines from home. It is easier to “unplug” when I am in a semblance of control over my environment. Sitting outside, getting some much-needed Vitamin D, and toting along a beverage or two (or heck, a whole ice chest) has become my favorite activity during this uncertain time. I am healthy and safe. I’d like to enjoy it a bit more and reading has helped me get there. If you’re like me, you have shelves full of best-laid plans that you’ve picked up in grocery stores, yard sales, airports, or borrowed from a friend. Now’s the time to give them the attention they’ve deserved after all this time.
Here’s our quick guide to what’s next on our “to read” lists:
A pop culture blogger loses her job and spends a year tackling her fears, one day at a time. This book helps us find comfort in the fact that there is no way to possibly prepare for the unpredictable.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I know – this book was on everyone’s radar five years ago. I didn’t get to it, because, life. Settling into a dependable consistency, the main character of this work witnesses something unexpected and it makes a mess of her life (or so I’ve been told).
Postscript by Cecelia Ahern
When I get in a mood, I like to watch movies. Without fail, I blubber my way through the movie, P.S. I Love You, feeling as if my faith in all things has been restored. It’s a roller coaster of feels though, but that’s what makes me love it that much more. For months, the sequel to the book of the same name has been out and I haven’t even cracked the spine. For Holly Kennedy, it’s been seven years since her sweet Gerry died. A group of people suffering from terminal illness asks Holly to help them letters just like Gerry did for her. Called the hardest book to write by the author herself, I can’t wait to give this a go. Knowing that Hillary Swank will reprise the role for the film adaptation is a bonus.
Grown Ups (or Adults) by Emma Jane Unsworth
Another book about a writer’s life gone haywire, this feels a bit like A Year with Eleanor, but I think I am here for it. I like seeing how strong Hermozas get through the challenging aspects of their very full lives. It also seems like the main character struggles with the impact and influence of social media and technology, which is like, totally right up all our alleys.
My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper
I love a good female comic, and Ellie Kemper from The Office is my kind of accessible. She seems like the girl next door, who goes to the same church, and has been in every class with you since kindergarten. That might be what makes her book seem like a treat. Any Hermoza who can say, "You're more beautiful than Cinderella. You smell like pine needles, and you have a face like sunshine," without breaking character has to be an absolute hit in her own work. I can’t wait to read this one. I’m sure it’s going to be cheerful as all get out, especially when she is described as “the perfect antidote to the chaos of modern life.”
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I tried so hard to get this one started right when it came out to all the fanfare. As all books should, Picoult has me here with a moral dilemma and an investigation of privilege, power, and race. Maintaining social distance doesn’t mean you stop examining the world around you. Let’s hope this book gets readers there. I bought it with the intention of offering it up as my next pick for my book club, but they had already beaten me to it on their own. I would love nothing more than to read all day every day, so now’s the time I start. Well, kind of. Because, you know, life still happens in isolation. Maybe this is my #1 pick from this list, and I blast my way through with this as the spark.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
I love a multigenerational read. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood still gets me every time. Mrs. Everything documents the lives of two girls who go through trauma and tragedy in the 1950s, grow up during Vietnam, then become adults during the Women’s Liberation Movement. As they work their way through social pressures, they define for themselves what it means to be women. With 48% of readers on Amazon giving this book a 5-star rating, it seems like a safe bet for a good read.
Cook Happy, Cook Healthy by Fearne Cotton
There are no rules during isolation, except practice social distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask in public. None of that applies to having a cookbook on your must-read list. I love Fearne Cotton’s content on Instagram. She is a working mom who still finds time and ways to remain calm, centered, and optimistic. We could all use a bit more of that. I am interested to see how this book takes those healthy habits and works them into meal planning, prepping, and devouring. Her fresh takes on cutting out refined sugar without ditching any “divine treats” might be just what we all need to rethink our snacks that we’ve been so dependent on this past month.
Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
I am a sucker for love stories – the 21st century kind. Books and movies are starting to shift away from the singular perspective of romantic love and are looking deeper into the love that ties together families and friends. Even Disney shifted away from the damsel in distress, pining away for the prince who will save her narrative in exchange for a mother who will do anything to protect her foster daughter and for a kid sister who has the truest, sweetest, most powerful love for her big sister. These kinds of dependable relationships in our lives make the world feel much more certain and less chaotic. Plus, I am all for a read that’ll keep me feeling major Girls Night In kind of vibes.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
The cover on this one is the reason I grabbed it from the airport bookshop. On the plane, however, I zonked out with a quickness the minute I sat in my seat. Since, it’s gone from my luggage to the shelf where it has lived for the past two years. Family histories filled with secrets and lessons all swirling around the courage it takes to create a future that doesn’t relive the past? Yes, thank you. It has a very The House of the Spirits kind of feel, so I am here for it, but it also feels like one of Daisy Goodwin’s quick reads, so you really can’t lose.
Whatever you choose to read, make sure it’s uplifting. You’ve have gone through enough without having to navigate the difficulties of a life half-lived due to boredom and a lack of challenge and growth.
For an additional activity, reorganize piles of books from your shelves into categories so choice-making is easier than ever. Consider “to read” and “to lend”. You can give a book a quick wipe down and deliver it to a friend in need (while socially distancing, of course). Resituate the remaining books you’ve read into a gorgeous rainbow of colors that brighten up the room. The process and results are ridiculously satisfying. Gift a few books to friends who live beyond a walkable distance. Spend time decorating the outside of the package so you can send along some encouragement, in case it’s needed.
If you’re stuck and aren’t sure what to read, check out GoodReads. You can make a list of all the recommendations you’ve received as well as review the books you’ve been lucky enough to finish while home.
Tell us what you are reading! Use #hermozawoman, #thehermoza, and #wellsuited to share how you’ve been faring with fiction (and non-fiction, of course).