Now more than ever stories are what keep us alive. Being in quarantine has made us fearful of what’s outside and desperate for things to change. In our homes, we’ve huddled under the comforting glow of narratives, whether they are being delivered to us through television, podcasts, or books.
For the last three years, I have worked as a bookseller at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. That is to say that, for the last three years, I have shared some of the great loves of my life with strangers. Each time a customer leaves the store with a book that I have personally recommended, it’s as though I’ve sent them away with a small, intimate part of me. If I’m lucky, they come back one day to tell me how the story has impacted their life.
There are certain books that are especially appropriate for these uncertain times. Whether you want to escape your home through the pages of a great adventure or find solace in the relatability of a more grounded story, there is a book for you. Here are five books that I recommend reading during the quarantine:
This is the perfect book for a restless spirit. Adams’hilarious, insightful, and adventurous story will take you through every conceivable corner of the galaxy as the main characters try to learn the answer to the "Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything." This fantastical, mesmerizing book features a depressed robot, the two-headed president of the galaxy, hyper intelligent mice, and an alien named after a car. Now you can leave not only your home, but the Earth itself through the pages of this classic, wildly popular novel.
Most days it feels like we are living through the end of the world, as though the apocalypse is upon us. What comes after the end? Hunter’s first novel explores the ways in which life goes on even in the midst of unimaginable disaster. The protagonist of this novel is a woman who has just given birth to her first child as apocalyptic floods submerge the world below sea level and she must flee to higher ground. The devastation exists side-by-side with the beauty of her child’s growing consciousness.
As with The End We Start From, Good Omens is about the end of the world, but this book is a fun romp around London that follows an angel and a demon who have accidentally lost the anti-Christ and need to track him down before the world ends, which happens to be in eleven days. I have read this book upwards of ten times and each reading reveals a new joke that I had somehow missed. This is a fun, fast-paced read packed with wit and heart.
Do you wish that you could sleep through everything that is happening in the world right now? Then you’ve got a lot in common with the protagonist of Moshfegh’s second novel, an unnamed woman who uses prescription medications to try and sleep through an entire year of her life. Fair warning, this book is a bit dark and features intricate, beautiful meditations on grief, ambition, lust, and art. I was so captivated by this bizarre story that I once missed my stop on the bus while reading it.
To me, this is the Great American Novel. Smith’s narrative follows the life of the Nolan family across two decades as they try to thrive despite their poverty in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the twentieth century. The protagonist, Francie, is an intelligent, ambitious young woman who challenges the world to stop her in much the same way that the tree growing in her building’s courtyard continues to return despite all of the attempts to kill it. This is the perfect novel for anyone who needs to be reminded of the indomitability of the human spirit.