My suggestions for a good read during difficult times
Hunkering down is what you’ll be doing for the immediate future: trying to stay well or get well or just waiting. You’ve had enough TV and the pantry’s as clean as it’ll ever get. Maybe it’s time to find something to read. Why not try one of these great books…..
Let’s dig in. You can’t go wrong with Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale. What makes it different is that Dale is a gay trans woman who is also autistic and this book is about her self-discovery and her life.
Here’s a book for parents, and for transgender readers: What We Will Become by Mimi Lemay, a story of little girl who knew she was a boy, and his mother, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who loved her child enough to give up her old life.
Maybe when this is all over, a bit of poetry is what you’ll need, and Daddy by Michael Montlack will be what to look for at the end of this virus’ run. Some of the poems are musings, some are heartfelt, others read a bit like individual paragraphs, all are compelling. You’ll find “Daddy” available in later April.
If you’re a fan of unusual thrillers, look for Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen. It’s the story of two dead women who have not yet been found in their marshy grave. But they know what’s going on, and they know they won’t be alone for long. Oh, and they know who killed them. Also, thriller fans, get Journey of the Pharaohs by the late Clive Cussler and Graham Brown. If you’ve ever read a Cussler book, you know what you’re in for!
The Love Story of Missy Charmichael by Beth Morrey is a sweetheart of a book. It’s about a 79 year old woman who’s largely alone; her children are scattered or estranged and she’s old enough to believe that reflection on her past is all she has left. And then she meets a dog….
The fan of historical fiction will love having Westering Women by Sandra Dallas on the sofa. It’s the story of a young seamstress and her small daughter, both of whom travel with a caravan of other women to answer the call for “eligible women” out west in the 1800s. Adventure, love, action, can you resist?
Music fans will love hunkering down with The Beatles from A to Zed by Peter Asher. It’s an easy-breezy book on the Fab Four, but indirectly—which means you’ll get some little-discussed, little-known tales that fans will need to know. Here’s another book that’s perfect for the music fan: She Can Really Lay It Down by Rachel Frankel, a book about music’s female rebels and rockers. Or look for 1973: Rock at the Crossroads by Andrew Grant Jackson, a book that’s part history, part music history, and all perfect nostalgia.
For the reader who loves a good true-medicine tale, try The Open Heart Club by Gabriel Brownstein. Written by a man whose life was saved by cardiac surgery when he was just a small child, this book looks at heart surgery in the distant past and what’s being done to cure the heart now. Another book to look for, whether you’re thinking it’s time to quit smoking, you’re fascinated about why anyone would start, or you’re just plain in need of something different is The Cigarette: A Political History by Sarah Milov.
For parents or parents-to-be, how about something different: Designing Babies by Robert L. Klitzman, M.D. is a guidebook of sorts, filled with choices that potential Moms and Dads can make when taking that big step toward parenthood—but it’s also a book about how tomorrow’s generations are being affected by technology today. Also, try 9 Months In, 9 Months Out by Vanessa Lobue, which is a scientific look at pregnancy and being a parent, written by a scientist.
The reader who hates the fact that Church has to be missed will enjoy having The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History by Andrew T. Walther and Maureen H. Walther around. It’s a large, beautiful retrospective on the “K of C,” its contributions, and many of the leaders who influenced the Knights through the decades.
Hang on to hope that this will be over soon, but reading Nomad: Designing a Home for Escape and Adventure by Emma Reddington. This heavy, beautiful book is filled with ideas for the person who wants to convert a bus, van, or boat into a permanent living space that’s movable. You can dream, can’t you? While you’re reading that one, keep Making a Life by Melanie Falick nearby; it’s a book on crafting, art, and subsisting on that which you create.
Depending on the view from your bed or sofa, On Flowers by Amy Merrick might be something to lift your spirits. It’s filled with photos, and its words reflect an appreciation for all things colorful. The book to read after that: White Feathers: The Nesting Lives of Tree Swallows by Bernd Heinrich, and learn about your feathered friends.
Another book to find, one that’s perfect for environmentalists, is Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther by Craig Pittman. Filled with humor, action, and a pretty kitty, it’s great for animal lovers, too. And this: Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall is a story of a donkey and you know you want it.
If you’re thinking that now’s the time to consider a good break and a new business, Discipline Strategy by Timothy L. Coomer, PhD is a worthwhile read and a good place to start. It’s about decision-making, goal-setting, and doing the best work you can offer to your customers.
Sports fans, there’s no doubt that you’re feeling bereft without your favorite team on TV, so why not pick up a sports book instead? One like Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss. It’s the tale of Nazi Germany, World War, and the United States’ first Olympic basketball team. Another book for the sports fan is The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant: by Bertrand Hėbert and Pat LaPrade. It’s a tale of wrestling, and the real man who made it fun to watch.
If this quarantine is compounded by loss, look for Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler. It’s a book for healing that takes things just one step beyond old, conventional grieving.
If you’re already tired of the same old meals, look for Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen by Alexander Smalls. There’s really only one thing you can say about it: yum.
True crime fans will want to have Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmid in their laps while being quarantined. It’s a deep look into a tragedy: along a highway in British Columbia, officials have discovered dozens of murdered Indigenous women and girls through the decades. How this happened, what is being done about it, it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. Also look for The Lost Brothers by Jack El-Hai, a missing-boys mystery that’s nearly seven decades old but still a very active case.
Here’s one to whet your True Crime whistle: Assassinations: The Plots, Politics, and powers Behind History-Changing Murders by Nick Redfern. The title says it all… except “you’ll like it.” Another book you’ll like: The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg, the story of a crime that impacted an entire geographical area.
If you’ve always wondered what it might be like to be in a high government crime-fighting position, then you’ll want to read The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder with Jessica Anya Blau. It’s the story of Walder’s years with the FBI, the CIA, and the life of one woman inside the world of taking down terrorists.
And if you’ve always wondered how crime-fighters do their work, then look for American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson. It’s a book about the man who helped set the stage for the way forensics is done, even today—and that includes the things he got all wrong.
Biography fans take note: The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton is one you’ll want to read. It’s a tale of stolen identity and betrayal, family turmoil, and a perpetrator you won’t believe. Another bio to find: My Time Among the Whites by Jennine Capó Crucet, who writes of being a Latinx woman in a world that’s mostly Caucasian.
It’s always time to hunker-hunker down with some burning love, and Elvis Through the Ages by Boze Hadleigh is the book you want. Filled with pictures, quotations, and tales of The King, it’s great if you’re so lonely, baby. Here’s another book about a king (to-be): King Charles: The Man, the Monarch, and the Future of Britain by Robert Jobson is all about William’s father, the man who’s next in line to the British throne.
Who doesn’t want the most fabulous life ever? If that describes you but you think you’re “too old,” then read A Woman Makes a Plan by Maye Musk. It’s a book of advice, but also a bio by a woman who’s had an interesting life and is willing to share it. Hint: speaking of share, it’s a great story to share across the ages.
If you’re the type of person who likes light, short reading, try The American Women’s Almanac: 500 Years of Making History by Deborah G. Felder. This book is full of short biographies of women who changed history, and how they did it. Read it yourself—and share it with your teenager.
For the reader who’s concerned about health past the current situation, look for The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know About Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care by Dr. Jackie Walters. Read it—and share it with your partner, if you dare…
If this quarantine has you in a reflective mood, look for How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer. It’s a tale of self-help, support, friendship, and knowing that you’re on the right track in your life. And speaking of pals, look for Friendship by Lydia Denworth, a book on the science and cultural history of friendship.
If you’re looking for something empowering while you’re stuck at home, try Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe. During the Civil Rights Movement, Roundtree was an attorney who not only helped her clients but also took on a racist system in North Carolina and nationally. Another book to find is Race Against Time by Jerry Mitchell. As a reporter, Mitchell opened Civil-Rights-era crimes, and this is his story.
You might not find The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming in the adult biography section of your library or bookstore. You may find it in the Young Adult section, but that doesn’t mean this book is just for teens. Adults will thrill to the story of Lindburgh, his feats and accomplishments, his life and tragedy, and the beliefs he held that tarnish his legacy today.
Civil War buffs will want Not Even Past: The Stories We Keep Telling About the Civil War by Cody Marrs close by. Here, Marrs takes a look at that which has been written and told for generations, and why those tales still matter. Also look for Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War by S.C. Gwynne. The title is appealing, all on its own.
World War II buffs will thoroughly enjoy reading Inge’s War by Svenja O’Donnell. It’s the story of a story that O’Donnell learned as an adult, when she reached out to her grandmother and discovered family secrets, triumphs, and villainy.
Speed demons in need of a little zoom will want to find Faster by Neal Bascomb, a book about a race car driver who was the victim of racism; an automaker who was the victim of financial mayhem, and an heiress who dreamed of her youth. Add in a bit of history, Nazi Germany, and a fast-paced story and really: how can you resist?
If you love reading slice-of-life historical tales, then look for The Jamestown Brides: The Story of England’s ‘Maids for Virginia’ by Jennifer Potter. It’s the true story of the women who left their homes in Great Britain in 1620 to join settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, the hardships they endured, and what it was like to live in America at the country’s very infancy.
Books are great antidotes to being cooped up for weeks, and Johnny’s Pheasant by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett is a good one to have. It’s the story of an injured bird, a grandma’s love, and a boy with dreams. Another goodie for little readers is “Bedtime for Sweet Creatures” by Nikki Grimes, pictures by Elizabeth Zunon. It’s a tale of goodnight, and it’s perfect for little sleepyheads.
For the middle-grader who worries about the earth, Bugs in Danger by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Jia Liu is a great find. This book looks at climate change, environmental issues, why the bug population has declined over the past few years, and what we can do to stop it. Another book to find is Wildlife Adventure by Coyote Peterson. It’s a book with facts and activities and it might make the time go a little faster.
Little biography lovers will be happy to sit home with Work It, Girl bios, like Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama or Blast Off Into Space Like Mae Jemison, both by Caroline Moss, illustrated by Sinem Erkas. These books offer a great story, plus learning, plus an update on the lives featured. For the 9-to-13-year-old, a bio couldn’t be better.
The child who loves to people-watch will enjoy reading Hmong in Wisconsin by Mai Zong Vue, even when there aren’t a lot of people around. This is a story of immigration, bravery, war, and learning in two different cultures.
The young adult with a growing interest in politics will enjoy Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner. It’s a graphic-novel-style biography on Justice Ginsburg, from her earliest years to her current battles.
A lottery ticket and all that comes with sudden wealth are at the root of Jackpot by Nic Stone. When Rico Danger finds a winning ticket and shares with “Zan” Macklin, it seems like every problem either friend has ever had might be over—but money changes things, especially relationships. Another book to look for: the coming-of-age If Anyone Asks, Say I Died from the Heartbreaking Blues by Philip Cioffari. It’s the story of an 18-year-old, first love, and doing what’s right.
And then there’s the homework: Titles change, books change, release dates change, stuff happens. Call ahead to see if your local bookstore can order these books or send these titles to your home (they’re magic like that), or if your librarian can hold them for you (Superheroes, seriously).
Also—tissue makes great bookmarks, never sneeze into a book, wipe your books down before returning them to your library or before sharing, wash your hands, and Happy Hunkering!