With libraries closing across the country in the wake of COVID-19, many of us are stuck at home without our usual access to physical library books. This is a tiny price to pay for the health and safety of our communities. Closing libraries—places where large groups of people gather—is absolutely the right thing to do, and in the best interest of both library staff and patrons. If your library is open, please don’t visit. Instead, take advantage of the many digital services libraries offer.
Happily, there are thousands of books available digitally through Hoopla. Checkout limits vary from library to library, but there are no waiting lists for any ebooks you borrow via Hoopla. See a book you like? You’re one click away from reading it! You don’t have to leave your house to use your library.
Here are 20 of the best books on Hoopla right now. I’ve stuck to books that are fun, funny, hopeful, upbeat, and light. They’re not all 100% devoid of pain and suffering, but they’re all light on dread and heavy on optimism. I know a lot of us could use some books to make us smile right now.
Please note: What’s available in the Hoopla catalogue varies across library systems. All of these books are currently available through my small Massachusetts library network, but they may not all be available to all Hoopla users. The titles are linked through to Amazon in case you’d still like some feel-good reading right now, even if you can’t get the books through Hoopla.
Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
An all-ages mystery comic about a badass queer black teenage girl who solves mysteries at the Florida resort her dad manages. It’s got a lot of retro, just about everyone in it is kind to each other, and most of the mysteries Goldie solves are more bizarre/intriguing that life-threatening. It’s impossible to put down, and all the available volumes are on Hoopla.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin
This short graphic novel is the love story you didn’t know you needed: after decades apart, two queer women meet and fall (back) in love in their 60s. It’s a beautiful celebration of queer love later in life, and the art is just gorgeous.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
This is one of those rare, perfect comics that is beloved by kids and adults. Phoebe is just a regular kid until she accidentally hits a unicorn with a rock, resulting in a deep and lasting friendship withMarigold Heavenly Nostrils. This comic is snarky and hilarious and so tenderhearted and generous. If your kid is stuck at home, there are ten volumes on Hoopla. But beware: you are also going to get hooked.
Book Love by Debbie Tung
If you love books, it’s hard not to fall in love with these comics. Tung’s beautiful captures everything that’s wonderful, cozy, and infuriating about the bookish life. If you’re a reader, this one will resonate with you. And if you need something calming to read right now, this is your book: it’s cozy and comforting and full of joy.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Emoni is a high school senior caring for her young daughter and help to support her grandmother. She’s also a talented cook and is trying really hard to be able to go on her school’s culinary trip to Spain. This novel is brimming with love, mouthwatering descriptions of food, and characters you will never forget.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
If you need a book to make you smile, this is it. It’s got a little of everything: friendship, romance, family relationships. At the center is Willowdean, a teenage fat girl who gets to be real and flawed and comfortable and scared all at once. Plus Dolly Parton and drag queens.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
Do you need more subversive, hilarious, queer portal fantasy in your life? Look no further. Elliot is 13 when he finds himself accepted into training camp in the Borderlands, where he encounters a lot of absurdity and experiences some intense crushes. There are mermaids, there are elves, there is teenager snark, there is a lot of so much bisexuality front and center, there is a smart but funny interrogation of sexism. This book has everything I love.
Solo by Kwame Alexander
Blade’s dad is a rich, famous rock star, which is not always great for him. When a long-held family secret comes out, Blade takes a trip to Ghana in an effort to understand himself and his family. This is a gorgeous novel in verse and a celebration of music. If you’ve never read a verse novel before, this is a great one to start with.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswai
Nikki is a twentysomething woman living in London without much contact with the Sikh community of her childhood. When she takes a gig as a writing instructor, she ends up teaching creative writing to a tight-knit group of Punjabi women expecting to learn English. This book strikes the perfect balance between fun and serious. It’s hilarious but real, bighearted, and ultimately full of hope.
Breadfruit by Celestine Vaite
I read this book ages ago and was so excited to see it on Hoopla! Set in Tahiti, it’s the story of Materena, who is trying to decided if she should marry her longtime partner and the father of her three kids. Told in short episodes, it’s full of everyday life, as Materena deals with crises big and small. It’s funny and chatty and after you finish it you’ll feel like you’ve known (and loved) Materena forever.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This is optimist, character-driven science fiction at its finest. A young woman from Mars joins a spaceship crew on a long voyage, and everything that happens is just a delight. Creative, well-developed aliens, spaceship family, beautiful queer relationships. It’s funny and warm and everyone is so generous and tender. You won’t want to put it down.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Maybe now is the time to revisit or try this classic for the first time. This is one of those books that is easy to sink into, and there’s a wholesomeness about it that I find comforting. Maybe reading about the March sisters will give you some pointers for how to get along with your family while you’re quarantined together.
A Princess In Theory by Alyssa Cole
Naledi is way too busy going to grad school and working several jobs to pay any attention to the spam emails she keeps getting from an African prince telling her they’re betrothed…until that prince turns out to be a real dude who shows up at her workplace. Oops. This is a book that’s silly at times, plays with tropes in a delightful way, and also gets into a lot of serious issues facing both the MCs. Complex characterization + humor is my favorite combination in romance.
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
If you like angst and family drama in your romance, this is your book. Livvy and Nicholas have been meeting one night a year for most of their adult lives. But one year Livvy doesn’t show up, and then she moves back to town, and a whole lot of old and new tensions arise for both of them. This one is angsty as hell, which makes the HEA all the more satisfying.
The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian
There are a bunch of Cat Sebastian books on Hoopla and any one of them will do the trick if you’re looking for delightful queer historical romance. In this one, a grumpy private-investigator/fix-it man who grew up on the London streets falls in love with a proper gentleman and ex-soldier. There is angst, but, obviously, it all works out.
Perfect Pairing by Rachel Spangler
In this foodie romance, a chef and food truck owner falls for an investment banker who’s on a mission to revitalize the city of Buffalo. There is a lot of arguing in this one, as two women with very different ways of life find themselves falling for each other. There is also so much delicious food writing, and the setting of Buffalo is lush and beautifully portrayed. It’s an all around feel-good romance for me.
Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter by S. Bear Bergman
This is a gorgeous essay collection about queer and trans family. Bergman writes with such deep love about the people who make up his family, about queer parenting, and about all the different kinds of intimacy he has cherished throughout his life. Some of the essays touch on hard subjects—as family and partnership are messy and complicated—but the thread running through this book is a celebration of queer and trans lives and loves. It is a balm to read.
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Young
You’ve probably heard talk about the microbiome—all the bacteria that live in our gut—but I bet you haven’t given it as much thought as Ed Young. If you need something utterly fascinating and distracting, this is a great book to sink into. It’s full of interesting science, not just about the bacteria in our bodies but about all kinds of symbiotic relationships between bacteria and other creatures. Young’s writing is clear and engaging; this is one of those nonfiction books you’ll breeze right through.
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Look, I’m going to have to say it: this book is delightful. It’s a collection of tiny essays about everything in life that Gay finds delightful. It’s funny, playful, joyful, friendly. If you need a dose of wonder in your life, this is it. Gay has a poet’s talent for capturing the world as it is, especially the most mundane and ordinary joys that we so often ignore.
A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell
This is a beautiful blend of memoir and how-to. In it, Hubbell documents a year in the life of her hives. But it’s not just about beekeeping. It’s about the rhythms of a country year and the relationship between humans and other creatures. It’s a quiet book, full of wonder, beautiful descriptions of the Ozarks, the history and biology of bees, and many thoughtful mediations on solitude and the nature world.
If you’re looking for more of the best books on Hoopla, check out this list of great nonfiction comics on Hoopla. And if you need help deciding what to read while you’re social distancing, we’ve got a quiz to help you figure it out.