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Top Reads of Quarantine

I've been slacking on my posting lately but now that it is officially fall (aka bookworm season), I'm back on my reading and writing game. I considered doing a few wrap-up posts of all the books I've read since the pandemic started but let's be honest, most people would rather see the best of the best (and I would rather not write 25 reviews on some books that I didn't even enjoy). I'm using the same style I use for my wrap-ups, with my favorite read coming in at the end to save the best for last.


This book had been on my radar for a while when its movie adaptation starring Natalie Portman came out in 2018. One of my favorite YouTubers/BookTubers Jess ( raved about it a few years ago and the premise caught my attention. Annihilation is the first book in an eerie and unique sci-fi trilogy set in a dystopian future where a region of the earth has distorted itself into something called Area X. Several expeditions have been sent to explore this mysterious area, with no conclusions of its origin and with the explorers disappearing into the land or coming back forever changed. A biologist sets off with a team of four other women to discover and report back as much information as possible. This quest is even more personal for the biologist as her husband was part of a previous expedition that brought him back unrecognizable.

This is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. The narrative comes entirely from the biologist, with the story unfolding through the pages of her journal entries. Because she is writing the entries as if they will get back to the government, her words are cautious and formal, and neither her name nor the names of any of her fellow explorers are ever revealed. From the first page, a tense and enigmatic tone is set ---- I fell through the story quickly and nervously, never knowing what the next page would bring. The atmosphere of this book is unlike any other and I felt thrilled by the unknown. This is a fairly short book but it packs a punch, and the ending pushed me to immediately buy the second book in the series, something I almost never do. Reading reviews on Goodreads, I see that people were bothered at the unresolved ending and the vague details, but I actually enjoyed the obscured reality ---- it made it feel far more powerful and real and got the wheels turning in my head for days.

If you're looking for a thrilling, disturbing, atmospheric novel to get you out of your own world for a time, definitely give this book a try.


I spoke about this book in my Top Books for Summer post but I want to reiterate how much fun I had reading this nonfiction book.

Adharanand Finn is a journalist who dives deep into the extreme sport of ultra running by completing the most famous ultramarathons in the world. I learned about the world of ultra running a few years ago when I read the best running book I've ever picked up, Born to Run by Chris McDougall. If you haven't yet read that niche classic, I highly recommend it. When I heard that people run ultramarathons (which is anything more than the marathon length of 26.2 miles) for fun and through all kinds of extreme settings, I was floored. Some ultramarathons are more than 100 miles, through mountains or desserts, rain or shine, and can last many days. How can the human body withstand that much stress? How can a person mentally get through such a grueling feat without breaking down?

I was amazed that Finn wanted to explore this world by personally putting himself through multiple arduous races, detailing each race's twists and turns and how he was able to push through the pain. Not only was this exciting to read, but since Finn traveled across the globe to compete, I felt like I was being whisked away to exciting places to experience this strange niche world with him. I was exhilarated despite being confined to my home during quarantine. Finn gives the typical running book background on the sport, describing its quick rise to a thriving global industry, and highlights some of its biggest names and their journeys. But my favorite part was hearing about these insane races through the eyes of a guy who jumped into this world feet first. He describes some of his legitimate breakdowns, including the strangest race I've ever heard of ---- a 24-hour race on a track. Yes, he really just ran around a track for 24 hours straight, having a mental breakdown and spiritual renewal in the process.

Don't get me wrong, I don't plan on ever running an ultramarathon but that didn't stop me from getting sucked into this crazy but addicting sport. If you're looking for an exciting nonfiction book that effortlessly integrates running, travel, taking risks, and pushing past comfort zones, this is the read for you.


This was the book that helped me crawl out of my quarantine reading rut post Harry Potter re-read. The Dirty Life is a memoir by Kristin Kimball who was a writer living in New York City when she interviewed a young farmer outside of the city and they quickly fell in love. While she knew nothing of growing vegetables, caring for animals, or the incredibly hard work that goes into sustaining a farm, she agreed to leave NYC and join her new boyfriend on his quest to buy land and turn it into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.

I know ---- this sounds like the plot of a charming Hallmark movie, but Kimball gives the gritty details of the difficult yet rewarding life of a farmer. She paints a vivid picture of her everyday life, down to the color and flavor of the crops, and the tools and techniques they use. The book reflects the first year of her relationship and the farm, breaking it up by season. She explains the obstacles and themes of each season and what is most important to accomplish, even though the work of a farmer is never-ending. Kimball breathes such animated life into her words that I felt like I was there with her.

My only qualm with this book was that I wished it was longer because I absolutely loved living in her world. However, Kimball recently published a new book, Good Husbandry, which I've already picked up and am planning to get through sometime this fall. If you're looking for an easy but beautiful story that will make you wish you could also fall in love with a farmer, raise chickens, grow crops, and spend the majority of your time on your feet and outside (wait, was that just me?), I couldn't recommend this book enough.


Another recommendation by Jess (, this was a whimsical but deeply affecting novel that was actually longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2019 (a pretentious but notable award).

I'm not sure what category this novel would fall under --- maybe fantasy, although light on the fantastical; perhaps magical realism. Lanny opens with a strange creature enveloping a small town outside of London. This creature seems to feed off the town's fears and negativity, popping in and out of the town's fabric of reality every few decades. Max Porter even goes as far as to jumble the words on the page to mirror the voices of the town's people through the ears of the creature. Eventually, the character of Lanny is introduced, an eccentric child whose mother worries that his solitude might be negatively impacting him. When the curmudgeon (aka the grumpy old man stereotype) next door opens up his art studio to Lanny, the two form a bond that seems to raise both of their spirits. But, the horrific creature lurks in the shadows of the town, waiting for Lanny to waltz into his greedy arms.

I realize that this blurb may seem odd and confusing and maybe even slightly childish but I think that's what made this book so impactful ---- I did not expect it to be the affecting and moving story that it became. The emotions of this book are unexpectedly simple but potent. I routinely had to stop and put a hand to my chest because I could feel the words on the page running through my body. The words struck a strange, slightly nostalgic chord in me that is somewhere between how it feels to be a child with seemingly irrational fears and how it feels to be an adult with very logical anxieties. I grew up adoring fantasy and magical realism and this helped me remember why I love the genre so much.

If you're looking to dip your toe in magical realism or even if you want a short but powerful story about how it feels to be a child, a parent, and or even a friend, I highly recommend this book.


Ah, another spectacular book by my favorite author of all time. Yes, I stand by that statement because every single book I've read by Jon Krakauer has blown me away and just convinces me further that he is the best nonfiction writer to ever live.

Into Thin Air follows Krakauer on an incredible but terrifying journey to climb Mount Everest in the spring of 1996. Krakauer takes on a reporting job for Outside magazine when they ask him to report on the commercialization of the legendary climb. He joins a well-respected expedition led by Rob Hall, and details each day on the mountain.

Despite knowing the outcome of this disaster, I was still on the edge of my seat as Krakauer went into excruciating details over each and every member of not only his expedition, but the others who were on the mountain that fateful day. This is exactly why I love Krakauer ---- he always keeps me gripped to the page in anticipation despite knowing what technically happens at the end of his books. Also, the fact that this book is a first-hand account of someone who climbed to the peak and survived to tell the tale when many did not is simply unparalleled storytelling. Krakauer published this book pretty soon (considering) after the disaster, but it is so clear that his attempts to process and grieve through the writing of this book was not successful. His pain is left trailing the last pages of the book as it seems even he does not know what to make of what happened that day.

I always tell people who are looking to get more into nonfiction to start with Krakauer ---- although my favorite of his will always be Under the Banner of Heaven, this novel does not disappoint in thrills, facts, and captivity. I couldn't recommend it enough.


This was the most unexpectedly wonderful book I've read in a long time. I'm pretty sure I saw this cover on someone's bookstagram and I was enraptured, proceeding to look it up and snag it from the library. Something about the cover makes me feel all warm and cozy inside (this just shows how important cover marketing is). To be honest, I barely read the blurb but was intrigued enough to reach for it immediately.

The Smell of Other People's Houses (I adore this title) is set in Alaska in 1970. It follows four teenagers living very different lives as they struggle to find love, security, and themselves. As the story progresses, their lives become entangled in the most unexpected but enchanting ways.

When I first began reading this book, I was a little bothered by having to follow four main characters, each with their own life and story. I think I was unsure how the author was going to be able to tie everyone together while differentiating each character and their journey. However, Hitchcock exceeded my expectations, and I was left in awe. Each teenager has their own struggles whether with poverty, absent parents, changes out of their control, or finding real friends. Each voice is unique and distinct, and I felt empathy and even related to many of the emotions each teen was going through. There were times when Hitchcock's words rang so true I would tear up. She articulated so many adolescent emotions that I'd forgotten about until I read them on the page. Even just the idea the title evokes, The Smell of Other People's Houses, brings back memories of spending weekends at friends' houses and how each friend had a distinct smell to their house that would often bring varying levels of comfort to me. It is such a strange but moving experience when an author can bring back memories and nostalgia that you didn't even know were buried inside.

The ending was absolutely perfect and wonderful and despite some difficult topics brought up throughout the book, I was left feeling hopeful and content. It brought me some desperately needed peace, especially with what's happening in the world right now. I know a lot of us could appreciate some of those good feels right about now, so I encourage you to give this book a try.


I had been meaning to read Octavia Butler for a few years and happened to pick Kindred up from the library just as the Black Lives Matter resurgence was picking up speed. While I've continued reading anti-racist literature over the last few months, I was excited to dive into a fantasy book by an acclaimed author (she was a pioneer Black woman author of the sci-fi and fantasy genre, becoming the first science-fiction writer to win the MacArthur fellowship in 1995).

Kindred follows Dana, a Black woman living in 1970s Los Angeles who begins being transported back and forth between her present-day and pre-Civil War Maryland. The time-traveling is connected to her ancestor, Rufus, a young and white slaveholder, who needs Dana's help every time he is near death. She realizes that in order to solidify her existence, she has to ensure Rufus and her ancestor Alice meet and continue her bloodline.

I've never read a slave narrative quite like this one. Butler did an incredible job combining the ideas and beliefs of the present day with the antiquated and horrific customs of a slaveholding America. By having Dana thrown back and forth between the two times, Butler was able to give a modern narrative to a historic story. Like many slave narratives, this book is filled with the terrifying realities slaves faced for generations. There are scenes of extreme violence and pain. However, I felt that every sickening scene was there for a reason. Butler does not do violence or gore just for the sake of shocking the reader ---- she does it to show the reader the atrocities of the time, but then points to the psychological effects this had on slaves. Dana both realizes and experiences firsthand the difficult and life-threatening choices Black people had to make to survive ---- sometimes that meant risking torture and death, sometimes it meant staying put to protect family and loved ones. It is a heartbreaking and sobering reality that I honestly feel like I didn't understand fully until reading this novel.

This story had me hooked from the first page and I finished it within hours because I couldn't stop reading. The characters are well-fleshed out and complex, the plot moved quickly and fiercely, and Dana's struggles and strife felt like punches to the gut. I had so many emotions reading this book and it left me grappling with the legacy of slavery and how it is still intertwined with American society today.

This book is important but it is also one of the most masterful stories I've ever read. I think it should be added to everyone's reading list, whether you're trying to read more books by Black authors or you simply want a gripping story that will leave you haunted for days.


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.

Stay safe, stay sane, and happy reading!


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