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Top Books to Read During Quarantine

This all honestly feels like the plot of a science-fiction novel (I'm thinking Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel). In order for the coronavirus to be as least destructive as possible, we're all being encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing. What better time to pick up that book that's been on your nightstand for months, or read the book your friend recommended for you ages ago?

If you're struggling to figure out what books to reach for when the world is as crazy as it is, I've got you covered. I'm giving you a list of the most absorbing books I've ever read for the ultimate distraction. When I'm anxious or uneasy, nothing helps ease my mind quite like an engrossing (usually fictional) story that I can't put down, although I am also including some of my favorite nonfiction picks as well.

*I will note that all the libraries in DC have been shut down until further notice. As a library-lover, I freaked out slightly. However, don't forget that if you have a library card, you can borrow books from the library via e-book or e-audiobook. I'm going to use this time to get through the rather large TBR pile of books that have been collecting in my room. You can also order used books from, which I highly recommend.


Fiction Recommendations:

Ah, I can finally talk about the most important books of my entire life, the ones closest to my soul. I have yet to mention my beloved series on this website because I want to introduce books that maybe most people haven't yet heard of or read. But we're in crisis mode, people. And if you haven't yet read this legendary series or if you've been feeling a reread lately, now is the time.

I grew up with Harry Potter. I have a very distinct and detailed memory of being five-years-old, laying in bed as my mom read me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in her lovely Polish accent. I was able to read the second one on my own, and the rest is history. My sister and I were those siblings that argued over who got to read the latest book first (she almost always won because she's older), and many years of my adolescence were marked by the obsession over whatever book had just come out. This series was the start of my ridiculous love of reading, something that is now deeply tied to my identity. I could never articulate what this series means to me and how important it is to who I am (I have a Harry Potter tattoo, if that tells you anything).

If you're rolling your eyes because you're tired of people singing the praises of these books, hear me out for one second. There is a reason people cherish these books so intensely. J.K. Rowling created the most magical, beautiful, engrossing world I have ever fallen into. The characters are so real, dynamic, and hilarious. They are some of the most memorable characters in fiction. The Wizarding World is so rich and detailed, and Rowling is the queen of world-building (Tolkien is the king). My head knew that I would not be getting my Hogwarts letter on my eleventh birthday, but my heart had the tiniest sliver of hope because Rowling created a universe that convincing. Getting a chance to be part of that world, even if just through reading the books, is still one of my favorite parts about being alive in this generation.

And if you think this series is just for kids, think again. I've known several friends who have read the books later in life and fallen in love with no less vigor than I. Perhaps the first and second book might feel more childish, but if you can get through those, the rest of the journey is deep, complicated, and at times, very difficult. But the most wonderful thing about this series is the sense of hope that Rowling instills in the reader despite everything the characters go through. I reread the series every few years or so, usually when I'm going through a crisis or struggling somehow. Honestly, I would absolutely reread the whole thing again right now if I didn't have a pile of unread books staring at me in the face (and this website to upkeep with new books and posts). Rereading these books feels like home. They never fail to make me laugh, cry, and feel magic in my soul, no matter how many times I read them (which might be around four).

If you're looking for the ultimate distraction, the greatest adventure, and the most soul-fulfilling story in this time of anxiety, look no further. Pick up this damn series, I promise you won't regret it.


If you're really looking to get deep in the reality of a fictional world, reading a series is the way to go. I'm always going to scream about Harry Potter if someone wants a difficult yet uplifting journey, but if you're looking to get lost in a more complicated story, I couldn't recommend The Hunger Games enough.

I read this series in high school at a time in my life when everything felt just really emotional and intense. I'm pretty sure I heard about this series from my friend Amanda, and even borrowed at least one from my friend Casey (hi, guys). At the time, this series was very far from being turned into movies and not many people had heard about or read them yet.

If I'm being completely honest, these books might be the most engrossing I have ever read in my life in terms of plot and pacing. I'm sure you have heard of the plot --- Katniss Everdeen lives in a dystopian society that pits the children of its districts against one another in a fight to the death. I distinctly remember reading the first book with my eyes wide open in disbelief, glued to the page, absolutely unable to put it down. I've never seen an author make a scene feel so immediate and intense as Collins. The unique story line was one I had never imagined before in my life, and Collins created characters that were complicated and flawed, emotional and angry. I was hooked. I also have a very vivid memory of finishing the third and final book, Mockingjay, and sobbing into my mother's arms because I was so distraught. There's something about the ending of this series that just really affected me, showing me that war can destroy every inch of a country and a person, but that there are ways to rebuild and find hope.

This series isn't for someone looking for a happy-go-lucky distraction. This is a deeply moving and thrilling story of rebellion, leadership, loss, and how to move forward in the aftermath of destruction. If you're looking to immerse yourself in a powerful fictional tale that makes you think long after the last page, pick up this series.


I'm recommending one more series if you want to lose yourself and your worries in a fictional world. Also, I apologize for all of the series I mention to be fantasy or sci-fi, it just happens that the book series' I often find most distracting and engrossing are from those genres.

Now, The Mortal Instruments series is no miraculous feat of literature --- the books are filled with typical fantasy tropes, a twisted romance, and many plot twists. You won't be aching to write a PhD dissertation on this series. However, they are easy to read and written for a more general audience, making them enticing and consumable during this hard time.

The plot surrounds Clary, a teenage girl living in New York City who discovers that the world she lives in is not what it seems. Not only is there a hidden reality of werewolves, vampires, monsters, and magic, but she is actually unknowingly at the center of it all. When her mother gets kidnapped, she must put her trust in a mysterious boy named Jace to help her figure out what happened and how to save her mother.

Again, I've always loved sci-fi series growing up because there was so much excitement in waiting for the next installment or picking it up right away to continue the magic and get lost in the completely fictional world, where the characters had problems so different than my own. If the plot doesn't sound too hokey or you're into that avenue of storytelling, I don't think you would be disappointed in this series. There are six books in total, although the author has written countless other series based off the same magical world and I know plenty of people who dive deep into each spin-off.


My final fiction recommendation is one I have already discussed in detail in my Top Books of 2019 post (linked here), where I wrote that Dark Matter was the best fictional story I read that year. I'm not going to dive too deep, but I will reiterate just how amazing this book is.

Even if you're not super into science fiction, I think this story really challenges the idea of reality and the universe and in a way I have never before seen. It was so ridiculously engrossing that I stayed up until 3 AM on a Wednesday night last year because I had to finish it. This book is about a brilliant scientist who questions the decisions he has made in his life and where they have brought him. He has a wife and son he loves dearly, but at times feels like he gave up a different, more successful life in the field of physics. The story goes down the insane rabbit hole of the multiverse, the idea that there are infinite universes existing at this very moment, and how each decision we make alters the universe just a little bit. Blake Crouch is an absolute master storyteller, and this was one of those books that made me contemplate the ending for days after I completed it.

Side note, Blake Crouch also came out with a newer book called Recursion, which I also highly recommend for another engrossing story. That book deals with memory and reality --- very thought-provoking, but perhaps not as impactful as Dark Matter.


Not really into sci-fi or fantasy, or just want a more contemporary read? I'd recommend Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo, Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.


Nonfiction Recommendations:

I discussed this favorite of mine in detail in my Top Books of Every Genre post, but I am including it here because I want to point out how absolutely engrossing this book is. It gripped from me from the first page and held me all the way through until the end. If you want to get lost in the story of a real-life chilling narrative, I couldn't recommend this book enough.

The book centers around a haunting narrative of two Mormon fundamentalist brothers murdering their sister-in-law and one-year-old niece, which in and of itself is a winding and complicated story. But it is also about faith, human behavior, and religion's battle with modernity. While this story and its history is fascinating on its own, it is so much more gripping because of the way Krakauer pieces the narratives together. He is no doubt a master storyteller, somehow creating anxiety and anticipation in a story that has a well-known ending.

This book might be controversial for some, but for me, it was a enthralling journey through the religious psyche of America, making me question my own perspective and personal spiritual beliefs.


My favorite nonfiction read of 2019, this book was a captivating look at renting in an American city, specifically through the lens of poverty. The reason this is one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read is because Desmond is completely silent in this story ---- instead, the chapters unfold through the voices of the dozen or so people he covers in Milwaukee in 2007 and 2008. The book reads like fiction: there are direct quotes, thoughts from inside people’s head, pictures painted from all sides of the rent equation. I have never read a nonfiction book like this before, and I believe it is the main reason why it is so powerful. It is difficult to feel like a reader is getting an objective story when it is told through the eyes of the author. By removing himself from the narrative, Desmond was able to present the harsh and authentic reality of renting in an American city.

If you're looking to learn more about an important topic, broaden your horizons on what America looks like, and be enraptured all at the same time, I highly suggest diving into Evicted.


If you want a light-hearted, laugh-out-loud book to distract you during this time, Calypso could be just what you need. This book is an autobiographical memoir from the acclaimed writer David Sedaris. I'm not exactly sure how to describe Sedaris and his writing. He writes about his strange life in bits and pieces, pulling humor out of the most mundane occurrences. Just to warn you, he is crass, absurd, and relentless in his self-deprecation. But oh my god does it work. Calypso goes more into his later years, including the ways his family has dealt with the death of the matriarch and also of Sedaris' sister. He and his family end up buying a house on a North Carolina beach, and he reflects on some memories he has of his wild and obnoxious family, specifically when they vacationed at the beach over the years.

Sedaris' writing feels like sitting down to have a coffee with a close friend you haven't seen in a while, one that makes you laugh and roll your eyes, but inevitably leaves you feeling less lonely than before, which is exactly what most of us need right now.


Another engrossing, page-turning drama, this book was one of my favorites of 2019. This story chronicles the ridiculous scandal of Elizabeth Holmes, her startup Theranos, and the winding and deep fraud that surrounded the company.

First of all, this is simply an amazingly written story. I think I finished it in about three days because I couldn't stop reading it. John Carreyrou is actually the journalist who originally broke the story for the Wall Street Journal back in 2015 and it's astounding how much detail he was able to collect to accurately tell this daunting story... and daunting it is. Elizabeth Holmes was America's Silicon Sweetheart for the years she pretended to have invented a technology that would be able to run hundreds of tests on one drop of blood. I think America wants so desperately to have more successful women in the world of technology and startups that it was willing to look past Holmes' suspicious activity and demeanor. Can you blame it? Even the people within the company who began to realize that the technology was not working seemed to want Elizabeth to succeed despite her lies. It's a telling account of how far people are willing to go to keep a secret, and how blind people can be because they wish something to be true.


While this is not like my other recommendations in a typical narrative sense, I think it could be incredibly helpful for those of us who are looking to find structure, routine, and productivity in this time of strange schedules and being stuck inside.

This straightforward, easy to read guide to building better habits is amazing because it actually gives concrete steps and ideas on how to build routines to be successful. If you're struggling to find balance or to instill healthy habits, it's probably not you — it's your systems. James Clear understands that people need to start small and build upon a foundation in order to see results. I used to think that goals were reached with drastic changes and big ideas, but now I know better. When you start small, you don't feel overwhelmed and you're more likely to stick to a routine if it feels easy and enjoyable.

I will admit that I am struggling to get a sense of normalcy while I work from home, although I feel incredibly grateful that not only do I have that ability, but that there is still plenty of work for me to do while all of this is happening. If you are also struggling, whether to find a routine or because something has drastically changed in your life, this book could be incredibly helpful for you to feel a sense of control and productiveness.


If none of these recommendations pique your interest, shoot me a message through the Personalized Recs page and I can recommend books based on what you specifically want. Thank you to those who have sent a request. I absolutely love getting the messages and have such a blast giving personal recommendations.

I also want to extend an invitation to have a conversation during this weird time ---- if you want to talk books or anything else, feel free to shoot me an email at

Stay safe, stay sane, and happy reading!


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