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Quarantine Reading List: What We’re Reading While We’re Practicing Social Distancing

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Kathleen Keenan

Staff Writer

Kathleen Keenan is a writer and children's book editor in Toronto. In addition to Book Riot, she has written for Reel Honey, The Billfold, and The Canadian Press. She also edits a monthly newsletter for the indie bookstore A Novel Spot. Kathleen has an MA in English with a focus on nineteenth-century fiction, and there is nothing she loves more than a very long Victorian novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KathleenMKeenan or find her writing even more about books at

What’s on your quarantine reading list? As we all adjust to our new reality of being socially distant, we’re facing some pretty hard and scary times. While normally we’d be getting together to comfort each other, staying home is the least the rest of us can do to protect the people who need to be out in the world keeping things running. In other words, there has never been a better time to stay home and read a book. So I asked some of my fellow Book Riot contributors what books they’re planning to read while they’re in quarantine or isolation or being socially distant. The list below has everything from reliable classics to fantasy to romance…and a varied quarantine reading list is important to keep ourselves from getting bored. What I’ve learned from listening to other Book Riot contributors? Cut yourself some slack and read whatever you want. And stay home!

We Ride Upon Sticks coverWe Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

I had big plans for a quarantine reading list during this phase of social distancing, but I’ve had a really hard time staying focused what with everything *waves vaguely* happening. It may not be the time to finally finish Moby-Dick or various heavy nonfiction books I’ve been meaning to get to for months. Instead, I’ll be turning to We Ride Upon Sticks, about a girls’ field hockey team in Danvers, Massachusetts (the site of the original Salem Village, as in the Salem Witch Trials). It’s 1989, and the team is on a winning streak…which they soon discover may be the result of their town’s history. A fun premise, ’80s pop culture references, and witchcraft: I think that’s what I need to get me back into a reading mood.

Kathleen Keenan

Emma by Jane Austen

I read Emma in high school, but I’ve not picked it up since. With news that the movie would be released on digital early, I decided to revisit it. I read the first chapter and felt so calm—something about Jane Austen’s language requires me to focus more than reading contemporary novels, but the book is also super readable and enjoyable. It’s been a weirdly peaceful reading choice for this time of great uncertainty, and I’m glad it’s so thick!

Tirzah Price

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I have always loved a solid high fantasy read, especially because they make for fantastic escapism. Brandon Sanderson always serves up intricate worlds with complex characters who consistently keep me on the edge of my seat. The Way of Kings happens to be about a thousand pages long, so I know I can tuck into the story and get lost in the world. Sanderson’s too-real representations of politics and people always challenge me to look at the world with a fresh perspective, energizing me to eschew the status quo.

Neha Patel

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I recently started doing read-alike book recommendation videos on TikTok and, to my surprise, they were pretty popular. I got a lot of requests for particular titles, but none more frequently than All the Bright Places. Fortunately, I already had a copy, so I’ve bumped it to the top of my TBR. Even better, the adaptation is on Netflix, which will helpfully eat up another two or so hours of my social distancing efforts. Even as an introvert, I’m finding this effort to stay away from others super challenging, so I’ll take what I can get! And if All the Bright Places makes me cry like everyone promises it will, at least I won’t be crying over the stress of this major global event.

Abby Hargreaves

cover of You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah PekkanenYou Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I basically live at the library, so having my second home shut down was the biggest shock of the Coronapocalypse. Thankfully, a library in the nearby town stayed open long enough to deliver the book I had requested two weeks back. I’ve been anticipating this book for awhile; it’s a new release thriller and the theme is a relevant topic we don’t get enough of: backstabbing girl groups. I treasure the book as my last library borrow before they closed.

Shireen Hakim

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’ve read Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Idiot by Dostoevsky. I’ve actually only read the excerpted “Grand Inquisitor” chapter from this book until now. This is Dostoevsky’s longest, and maybe his most philosophical, book. I’m catching up on this book and some of Shakespeare’s plays that I missed, like King Lear. They’re public domain and available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Grace Lapointe

Upstream by Mary Oliver

Since reading and being outside are my comfort activities right now, I’ve been taking my time working through Oliver’s collection of essays on the natural world. They’re short enough that I can read one when I need a break from the news and are helping me to savor the time I do get to be outside right now.

Katie Moench

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I’m not leaving my apartment for the foreseeable future, so I long for escape. Fortunately, my long-standing hold on Morgenstern’s latest immersive fantasy came up at the library just in time for this period of social isolation. I can’t wait to dig into this big, beefy story filled with mysterious books and personal quests. Alternately, if I decide I’m in the mood for something a bit darker, I’ve got The Night Country, Melissa Albert’s follow-up to the creepy cool The Hazel Wood, on standby.

Nicole Hill

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

This was the last book I picked up from the library before it closed, and I’m excited to dive into this romantic comfort read (one that I assume will be the first of many!). The story promises to bring together Christmas spirit, the British royal family, fashion, and a rare romance with middle-aged main characters. I’m ready to swoon all over every page!

Alison Doherty

Warmth of Other Suns CoverThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

My mom gave me this book for Christmas, with a note about how this was the best book she read last year. I was scheduled to attend a conference in Chicago in March and planned to read this book on that trip. I am an African American woman living in southern California, and going to Chicago would have meant traveling north/northeast. Given that this book is about African Americans migrating (mostly) north, this book seemed fitting. (My travel books sometimes follow a theme.) My trip to Chicago has been canceled and I am working from home now. In theory this means I have more time to read, which is good because this book is over 600 pages.

Tiffani Willis

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This has been a highly anticipated new release this month and since I went to great lengths to preorder it before it came out, I’m deciding to dive right in. Usually I will convince myself that I have other books that have sat on my TBR pile for ages that I should get to first, but this state of global uncertainty has convinced me that life is short and we need to read what we want precisely when we feel like it—so that’s exactly what I’m doing. I also haven’t been reading a lot of fiction lately and have decided that this time off from the world is the perfect time to get back into it.

Jeffrey Davies

The Martian by Andy Weir

I haven’t been able to finish a single print book since COVID-19 became the new reality. So I’ve turned to audiobooks and comfort rereads. The Martian is essential comfort reading for me: it’s fast-paced, full of fascinating science (even if it’s not totally real), hilarious, and hopeful. Plus, Mark Watney is pretty much the king of social distancing since he has a whole planet to himself. I live alone, and I figure he’s probably got some good tips on how to stay connected while isolated.

Laura Sackton

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

I’ve been getting into graphic memoirs more recently and checked this book out from my library just before it closed due to COVID-19. Based on her Buzzfeed article, 37 Difficult Questions From My Mixed-Race Son, Mira Jacob’s memoir tells her story as a first generation American and the sometimes tricky conversations she has to have with her 6-year-old son. My son’s just learning to talk now, so I figure it’s probably a good idea to get some advice on how to answer his tricky questions. He’s just on one-word questions right now, but hey, it’s never too early to read up on something. It also sounds like a heartwarming and funny read, both of which I could use a little more of right now.

Megan Mabee

Constellations: Reflections from Life by Sinéad Gleeson

Since Sinéad Gleeson’s essay collection came out across the pond, I’ve checked my Goodreads over and over hoping for a release date here in the USA. Now it is finally here. Each essay is mosaic-like. They center on the personal and the intimate and yet Gleeson fills them with these moments of expansion. She use art, literature, and music to give them this bright, relevant edge. The experimental nature, honesty, and sparkling clarity of the book makes it a perfect balm for being stuck inside.

Gretchen Lida

cover of Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung FrazierPizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier (June 9, 2020)

At the start of the month, I had big plans to read through the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, but then the reality of the pandemic hit and I’m finding I need something a little more fun. Granted, I’m not sure this book will be all fun, but when a pizza girl becoming obsessed with a stay-at-home mom who depends on weekly pickle-covered pizzas is involved…I’m in.

Sophia LeFevre

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

I’ll admit that I don’t read a ton of romance, but sometimes when life is overwhelming, you need a book that you know will have a happy ending. There’s something so comforting about reading a book where, no matter how complicated things get, you know the protagonists will kiss and make up in the end. That’s why I’m turning to the romances on my TBR while social distancing. The Worst Best Man has a great hook: After being left at the altar, Carolina is forced to work with her ex-fiancé’s brother, who she blames for ruining her wedding. But of course, as in any good enemies-to-lovers romance, we have a pretty good idea how their feud will end.

Susie Dumond

Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Out of all the books I have read by the divine Mrs. Bev, I have yet to read her very first book. This seems as good a time as any to hunker done and finally give it the attention and credit that it deserves. I’m going to read tons of other books (self-imposed book limits are likely go to straight out the window for this period of time) but I will be sure that is one of the ones that I devour.

PN Hinton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I need fantasy in this time of crushing reality. The Belles has been sitting in my TBR pile for awhile because I almost always regret starting books in unfinished series (because, of course, I want the next one to be out already!). I had Internment by Samira Ahmed up next, but it felt too real for my current emotional state. The Belles’s beautiful cover art, plus the promise of magic and royal intrigue, feels like just what I need right now!

Mikkaka Overstreet

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

I purchased Harbor Me several months ago, and decided that now was the perfect time to retrieve it from my TBR shelf! The premise of six students gathering weekly to find a sense of community and comfort is something we as a society are longing for. In a sense, we’re doing just that, but remotely. Groups are turning to remote chats to confide in one another while they’re waiting out this crisis. Harbor Me seems like it’s speaking to us through these unique voices written in prose. I’m looking forward to diving in!

Cathleen Perez Brenycz

cover of American Sweethearts by Adriana HerreraAmerican Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera (March 30, 2020)

This is the fourth and final installment in Adriana Herrera’s Dreamers series, which centers on a tight group of Afro-Latinx friends in New York. I’ve loved all three of the prior books. Herrera masterfully combines the fun, gooey, interpersonal, romantic stuff with plots that are firmly grounded in reality and involve social justice. The result is contemporary romance that matters, stories that reveal an abundance of inconvenient truths about society. I’m a little obsessed with that. I love that her main characters always find a better way no matter the challenge. For me comfort reading is both romantic and emotionally satisfying and hopeful in terms of envisioning a better world. The Dreamers series epitomizes that.These books are perfect for me as a reader and also, I believe, perfect for the moment.

Carole Bell

Whether you’re looking for more suggestions for a quarantine reading list or news about how COVID-19 is affecting the book industry, you can find the rest of Book Riot’s  coverage right here.