Pass the Coughdrops: Book Recommendations for Sick Days

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Rachel Manwill

Staff Writer

Rachel Manwill is an editor, writer, and professional nomad. Twice a year, she runs the #24in48 readathon, during which she does almost no reading. She's always looking for an excuse to recommend a book, whether you ask her for one or not. When she's not ranting about comma usage for her day job as a corporate editor, she's usually got an audiobook in her ears and a puppy in her lap. Blog: A Home Between Pages Twitter: @rachelmanwill

Despite your best efforts to avoid it – I see you with your constant Purelling – cold and flu season is upon us. With any luck, you’ll escape unscathed, but if you’re like me, you’ll spend at least a couple days honking and hacking and nesting on the couch, trying to kick the plague out of your system.

And if you’re like me, you’ll want to spend your sick days (I’m on number four for the year so far; thanks, bronchitis) with just the right entertainment. While I’ve been doing my fair share of Netflix-ing, here are my best book recommendations for your sick days:

1. Rereads: When I’m sick, I just don’t have the energy to absorb new plot lines or to pay close attention to language. So I fall back on my favorite rereads, books that I know so well I can doze off mid-sentence and not lose the thread of what’s happening when I manage to rouse myself. Also books that are exciting and plot-twisty and easy – I’m not about to reread Pride & Prejudice.

On My Stack:  Kartography by Kamila Shamsie, Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjahlian, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

2. Harry Potter: Even though, technically, this is also a reread, Harry Potter goes in a category all its own. Being sick makes me regress into being a kid again – really, I just want my mom to come take care of me – and no other series gives me the same feeling, especially the early books.

On My Stack: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (all by J.K. Rowling, obvi)

3. Audiobooks: Sometimes you just don’t even have the energy to read pages, which is where audiobooks become a godsend. I like books that you’ve once read in print and are listening to for the first time, absorbing narratives, and genre fiction you’re experiencing for the first time.

On My Stack:  The Martian by Andy Weir, The Distance by Helen Giltrow, Lock In by John Scalzi

4. Short Stories and Essay Collections: I love collections of short work – fiction or nonfiction – when I’m feeling less than stellar because I can start and finish a complete piece without overdoing it. Plus, because I’m reading these in short chunks, I’m better able to absorb more complex work or denser writing.

On My Stack:  In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, Tenth of December by George Saunders, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

5. YA: There is nothing like a great YA novel to make you forget entirely that you’re sick. You’ll just keep reaching for the tissues while flipping pages and paying no mind to the raw skin around your nose.

On My Stack:  Adam by Ariel Schrag, Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

So what books make it onto your stack when you’re sick?


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