Monday, May 18, 2020

What to Read During a Pandemic

While some people are compiling recommendations of dystopian angst or Stephen King-like disaster, my rules are different. The book can’t be depressing (of course, depressing is in the eye of the beholder), it has to be worth reading more than once, and it needs to be available as an eBook or from Project Gutenberg.  It would be diabolical to make you long for something you cannot get quickly and I am rarely so cruel!  Also, remember that your library owns many eBooks and may be willing to purchase more.  Download Libby, if you haven't already!


Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: The unexpected friendship between a crusty, retired military officer and Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village.
The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman: Natalie’s family is stunned when the Vermont resort they want to visit answers their inquiry, “Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles."  She is determined to go anyway and it becomes a mission.

Historical Fiction

Dawn’s Early Light by Elswyth Thane: When Julian Day arrives in Williamsburg from England just prior to the Revolutionary War, he is shocked by his new friends’ outspoken views on liberty.  As time goes by he feels a sense of belonging and fellow feeling and realizes he has become a patriot!
Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce:  During WWII, an eager young woman longs to be a war correspondent but inadvertently becomes a secret advice columnist.  See my review.
While Still We Live by Helen MacInnes: Sheila Matthews’ innocent holiday to Poland becomes a nightmare when the Germans invade in the summer of 1939 and she can’t get back to England.  Soon she is working for the Polish underground.

Historical Romance

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: On my last day at BDD, I picked up two galleys on my way out the door that turned out to be bestselling franchises.   One was this spellbinding time travel about a WWII nurse who is on her second honeymoon when she goes back in time 200 years to war-torn Scotland.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (published in the UK as Sophia’s Secret): A dual time frame story which begins with author Carrie McClelland in Scotland working on a novel about the 1708 Jacobite Rebellion.  See my review.


Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey:  Patrick Ashby supposedly committed suicide at 13—his body was never found—but now he has returned to his family just in time to inherit the estate.  Or has he?
In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer Fleming: Clare Fergusson, an ex-Army chopper pilot, is the new minister in a conservative Episcopal parish in upstate New York and her congregation is upset when she gets involved in a murder investigation.  Series launch.
A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie: A week at time-share is just what the Scotland Yard's detective needs – until he finds a body, in this series launch.  See my review.


The Dinosaur Club: A Novel by William Heffernan: When Jack Fallon and several of his middle-aged coworkers are downsized, they plan revenge to drive the company's greedy Young Turks into extinction.
The Charm School by Nelson de Mille: When the CIA learns about "The Charm School," a sinister operation where American POWs teach young KBG agents how to be model U.S. citizens, a secret investigation is set in motion.
Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton: In the Falkland Islands, there are missing children, a killer, and secrets that have to be unraveled to avoid more tragedy.


The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse: It is hard to capture the plot in any of the adventures of Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves, but this starts off with an 18th-century cow-creamer sought by Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: When Margaret Hale’s family moves north to the industrial town of Milton, she has difficulty acclimating and comes into conflict with mill owner and self-made man John Thornton.
Washington Square by Henry James:  When New York heiress Catherine Sloper is wooed by upstart Morris Townsend, she has to figure out if he more interested in her inheritance than he is in her.  Let me know if you want to join the discussion of this book at the end of the month!

You’ve already read The Great Gatsby, haven’t you?  If not, this is a good opportunity.


Citizens of London by Lynne Olson: This is a riveting the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its WWII alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: journalist Edward R. Murrow; businessman Averell Harriman; and John Gilbert Winant, the idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain who replaced JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy.
Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime: The bestselling – and very candid - behind the scenes story of the Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin campaigns and the historic 2008 election.
Orville and Wilbur
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: I found this history of the American inventors and aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright (with only a high school education) both inspirational and mesmerizing.


The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968 by George Howe Colt: Colt looks not only at college football’s biggest rivalry (yes, I am prejudiced) and the famous 29-29 tie but also the history of the era and how that affected the players and universities.
The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball by Gene Wojciechowski: March 28, 1992. The final of the NCAA East Regional, Duke vs. Kentucky. The definitive book on the greatest game and the greatest shot in the history of college basketball, and the dramatic road both teams took to get there.  This game has been shown on TV often since 1992, introducing new generations to this game and the rivalry.

Young Adult

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle (better known for A Wrinkle in Time):  An American girl at boarding school in Switzerland is unhappy until a friendship with a French boy who suffered trauma during WWII helps her develop self-confidence.  See my review.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: A young woman from Scotland is captured in Nazi-occupied France and forced to write a confession detailing the British war effort, which she writes in the form of a novel.
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney: When Janie sees a kidnapped child on a milk carton at school, she becomes convinced it is her and is desperate to know if  her parents are really her parents.
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery:  You’ve read Anne of Green Gables (at least I hope so) but do you know about Emily Byrd Starr, an orphan forced to live with an unsympathetic aunt who doesn’t believe in fiction, fun, or fresh air?

YA Fantasy

Graceling by Kristen Cashore: Katsa is a smart, beautiful teenager with a special talent. Her talent is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug.  What happens if she resists?
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:  When criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, he enlists a group of talented outcasts, although each has individual goals that may derail the success of the project.
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: As a general's daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then he is purchased for her.

Children’s Books

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild: The ageless story of three adopted sisters, Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil, who enroll at Madame Fidolia’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training in order to earn their own livings and make their name famous.
Seven Day Magic by Edward Eager: When Susan opens a strange library book, she discovers it is about her and her friends, leading up to the moment when she opened the book. Beyond that, the pages are blank . . . waiting for the children to create a book full of magical adventures or misadventures.
Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell: In the middle of a deep forest is an enchanted valley and a castle where only shadows live, waiting for the spell cast upon them to be broken. One day, a girl named Lucy follows a little dog through a tunnel into the valley and meets the mysterious red-haired Michael, who takes her into the shadow world.  See my review.
A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley:  When Penelope goes to stay at an old English farmhouse, she finds herself transported at unforeseeable intervals back and forth from modern to Elizabethan times and learns of a plot to free Mary, Queen of Scots from imprisonment.  Also, who has my hardcover?? It belongs to my Aunt Adrienne!  You can listen to this book on YouTube.

Picture Books

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion: This funny picture book about the strong-willed dog who really doesn't want a bath stands the test of time.  Is Harry a white dog with black spots or a black dog with white spots?  You can listen to Betty White read it on YouTube.
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills: Follow along as Rocket masters the alphabet, sounds out words, and finally . . . learns to read, with help from a little yellow bird!

* * *

A little something for everyone! It is frustrating when the library is closed for this long, although I have hundreds of unread books in my house.  I did order the new Julia Spencer-Fleming and look forward to curling up with it.

What is the one "must-read" during quarantine you would have included?


Buried In Print said...

I love your list. And we have some childhood favourites in common, including some lesser-known L'Engles, the Eager volume (so delightfully bookish), Ballet Shoes, and Emily of New Moon. These days, sometimes I want all the dark things to read and sometimes I want all the light things...the consistent bit seems to be the inconsistency. But always books, for sure. What would we do without them?

Judith said...

Oh, this is a stupendously incredibly wonderful post of good books, a number of which I have read and agree wholeheartedly belong on your list. Julia Spencer-Fleming, for one. Her first published addition to the series came out in April. I have it in the house! So glad you'll be reading it soon as well.

And, And Both Were Young--I have read most of L'Engle's books for young adults and children, but not this one, though I picked it up at a booksale not long ago. Must get to it.

And Helen MacInnes! How great. I have read those in the past and long to read more. Thank you. I am going to return for more suggestions.
What a lot of work you have put into this post. THANKS! Oh, and what dog lover doesn't adore Harry the Dirty Dog? I ask you.

Ruthiella said...

Wow! That's quite a list. I think you have really something for everyone there. The global situation isn't really affecting my reading other than encouraging me to read books I own rather than buy new books or borrow from the library. But I would say, in general, for a comfort read I would personally go for a fat Victorian novel. I've already read North and South but want to read Wives and Daughters by Gaskill...maybe this year. I like "living" in long books precisely because they do take longer to read and I can immerse myself in the world of the novel.

Karen K. said...

I have been alternating between WWII fiction and nonfiction, which I find oddly comforting, and Victorians -- anything about the triviality of everyday life, particularly when the most dramatic outcome is which couple is going to end up together and the biggest scandals were a girl not following the partners on her dance card. I've been listening to most of Jane Austen on audio on my daily walks and may move on to Bleak House by Charles Dickens, which could take the entire summer.

Judith said...

I think I left a comment yesterday. Maybe it's not posted yet.
I dug up my copy of And Both Were Young and dug into reading it this afternoon. I loved the experience. My inner experience shook me back and for a time today I was a teen reading this book. I was swept up in its power. I'm only 50 pages in, but it's so good, I know I'll love the rest.

CLM said...

Oh, Judith, I love And Both Were Young so much. I loved boarding school stores from a young age but this also has the elements of gawky girl becoming a swan, mysterious and swoony boy, dramatic mountain setting, exciting ski race. I know some of the elements are autobiographical as well. Delighted you are enjoying it. Also, a very different book, but when the libraries reopen, I want you to read A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier. My sister and I think it is a little reminiscent of Julia Spencer-Fleming but you will also like the dogs!

Ruthiella, Wives and Daughters is going to be my next classic. Not sure why I don't own it, given how much I loved North and South, but I want to read it in a book not an ebook so will wait. The miniseries of North and South is also excellent; very well cast. I am told the Netlfix version was abridged, however.

Karen, except for A Tale of Two Cities, I haven't been able to get into Dickens, and even I with a love of WWII fiction overdid it a little these last few months. So I am trying to mix it up. Yesterday I read a book about the crusades which I had owned so long I forgot I had never read it. There were no female characters at all. The author didn't even explain what had happened to the hero's mother which seemed very odd but I was clearly not the target audience, although I enjoyed it.