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A stack of books and a nook portable e-reader. Photo by Grace Reeb.

Reading recommendations for different scenes in quarantine

Reading can serve a myriad of purposes in our lives, from presenting new topics and ideas to helping us get through tough times. Although the internet has provided readers with access to more books than they could read in a lifetime, when looking for something new to read it can be difficult to know where to begin. Whether you have too much time on your hands and need a book to entertain yourself or are overwhelmed with coursework and need a breather from time to time, I’ve compiled this list of many titles that I recommend.

I hope that I can help you find, or perhaps remember, something to read. I organized my recommendations according to situations that I can picture; many of these books could fit into multiple categories, and they are in no particular order. When possible, I listed places where you can read some of these books for free to try and increase accessibility; you can also check the website of your local library for e-book versions, especially for newer titles. I also included warnings for a few specific potential triggers under each book in which they appear. I have read all of these books, but it is possible that I made mistakes in labeling. Please use your own discretion when consuming any type of media, and do your research if you are concerned; Does the Dog Die? is one of many community-based resources for determining whether a work is suitable for you.

Books to read when you want to escape into another world

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

There are a few different physical settings in this book, and one can truly feel the shifts through the passage of time. These factors contribute to mesmerizing world-building that keeps me revisiting my favorite scenes.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Weir clearly conducted extensive research to solve the multitude of questions that the environment poses. His precision makes the world, or, rather the planet, feel immersive.

Crazy Rich Asians,” “China Rich Girlfriend and “Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

These books all take place on Earth (though some of the characters probably could travel to space for a weekend getaway if they so desired). However, Kwan offers a peek into the lives of some of the world’s most wealthy and powerful people, providing intense detail on what each character values in their own lives as well as some self-aware asides via footnotes. Grounding the craziness with the main character Rachel was a smart move – my favorite installment is the second book, where the wealth is amped up but is counterbalanced by her confidence in this world.


Childhood favorite books to read (or re-read)

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

This book entertained my miniscule fantasy to run away and live on my own as a child. If I had been seriously considering it, though, I would have stopped short once I read about some of Sam’s more dangerous adventures. It was nicer to live vicariously through this character instead as he explored the wilderness, and I love to relive those memories.

“The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

The premise of this book, a swan without a voice who learns to play the trumpet, sounds pretty bizarre, but the story is so endearing. The swan, Louis, is one of my all-time favorite characters; he is lovable, polite and determined.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

This is a book that you can read for free on Project Gutenberg. I enjoy going back to this original version, having grown up with so many adaptations.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

You can also read this book for free on Project Gutenberg. I love so many details from this book, along with others in the series, that unfortunately never made it to the film version. It is also a look back in time, showing how Baum and others thought about the past, present, and future.


Classic books that you might have been meaning to read

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

If you have watched the movie adaptation, you will probably be surprised by how different it is from the source material. Asimov explores human morality through intriguing stories about our own creations.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Trigger warning: self-harm, domestic violence

Achebe’s voice is incredibly powerful in this book. He shows immense control over his language, particularly in his development of themes. 

“The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Trigger warning: sexual violence, self-harm, domestic violence

Not only is this one of my most-read books, but it is also one of the most difficult for me to read. Atwood published this book in 1985, and it is scary to consider how our current reality lines up with some of the themes that she built so long ago.


Emotional and cathartic books

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

Trigger warning: sexual violence, domestic violence

I read this book for the first time in one sitting—I could not look away. This is an excellent example of character-driven stories, as Walker creates a wide range of diverse characters. I feel both distraught and overjoyed when I re-read this book.

“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

Trigger warning: sexual violence, self-harm, domestic violence

This is a book of the stories of mothers and daughters. It is also a book of love. Just as the characters’ lives were not simple, the pieces of the narratives come together only when you give them your time and attention. 

“The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

Trigger warning: self-harm, domestic violence

The themes of healing and family resonated deeply with me when I read this book. I learned about people who are deeply flawed, and come together to support one another.


Suspenseful books that you will not be able to put down

“Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Trigger warning: self-harm, domestic violence

I looked desperately for the setup in this book as I read it, but Pinborough strategically kept it hidden but plausible in the end. Even without the suspense, the plot is engaging and the characters are multidimensional.

“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriaty

Trigger warning: sexual violence, domestic violence

I accidentally read a major spoiler online before reading this book. I still enjoyed it immensely for what it was, as the plot does not hinge on gimmicks, and it plays out small moments in ways that reveal information if you are paying attention.

“The Institute” by Stephen King

This was a long read, and in all honesty, I felt as though King wasted few pages. However, I did not mind the parts that might seem to drag, as I wanted to know what would happen to all of the characters as the pieces fell into place. The reveals were spine-tingling and unexpected, yet satisfying.


Autobiographies that will stick with you

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

As someone who grew up while President Obama was in office, reading this autobiography only increased my admiration for First Lady Michelle Obama. She has put in an inspirational amount of hard work during her life to support her loved ones and her own goals. Her post-grad decisions were particularly memorable to me.

“I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

Malala Yousafzai’s story is famous worldwide, so it was illuminating to learn about the details of her life up to the point of writing. She has worked tirelessly for years to promote the  human right to education.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

Trigger warning: sexual violence, domestic violence

This is an absolutely iconic autobiography for many reasons. Maya Angelou was a prodigious writer – this book is one of several autobiographies that she wrote – and reading her story for the first time as a child, and reading it now as a young adult, always fills me with hope.


One of the great joys of reading is sharing our thoughts and experiences with others. If you enjoy reading, I encourage you to revisit your favorite books, explore new titles and talk to other people about your reading journey.