The words “isolation” and “lockdown” have reached new heights after COVID-19 struck and affected our daily lives. Even the year 2020 felt like a hazy dream, one which we cannot keep denying. But not even this contagious viral disease could hinder artists, generally, from pouring their creative juices into remarkable works of art. In literature, authors have published some of the arguably best books amid these trying times.
In this list, we’re going to talk about the 14 best books to read during lockdown.
If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha
Starting our list is one of our favorite books to read, Frances Cha’s debut novel If I Had Your Face. It tells the story of four women caught up in the midst of society’s favor, greed, hedonism, and misogyny. The book plays around with the four characters’ perspective as they carry on with their strangely familiar lifestyle and odd entanglement with each other. One of the best books to read for our quarantine needs, If I Had Your Face is about the shelter friendship can provide and the grace that goes with it.
I Know You Know Who I Am: Stories – Peter Kispert
One of our favorite quarantine reads, I Know You Know Who I Am: Stories is a collection of short stories that makes Peter Kispert’s debut collection. This collection features liars whose deceptions affected their lives and relationships. Probably one of the most ambitious yet effective book to tackle human nature and flawed beings, this should definitely make it to your books to read list this year.
Under The Rainbow — Celia Laskey
Despite the subtle yet witty approach employed in Celia Laskey’s Under the Rainbow, this piece was written with the intention to provoke deep thoughts. One of the best books to read during lockdown, Under the Rainbow tells the story of a task force of queer volunteers who are to infiltrate a town called Big Burr in Kansas which is tagged as the most homophobic town in the US.
Under The Rainbow is a poignant and bold take in tackling a story about society and its stigma with a dash of belongingness, reminding us that despite our sexual preferences, all of us are not that different from one another.
The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s - Maggie Doherty
This title is dedicated to all brilliant, aspiring, and self-driven women who untiringly persevere to hit their ambitions. Maggie Doherty’s The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960’s tells the story, struggle, and strength of her five brilliant friends—poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Mariana Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen—who came together at the newly founded Institute for Independent Studies of Radcliffe, Harvard’s sister college. The women quickly formed a bond that forever impacted each other and inspired the life of Maggie Doherty. The Equivalents is an honest tale about the realities of a woman during 1960s America. Despite being a memoir the inspiring account does not step away from its intention in telling us to keep moving forward.
The Dating Plan – Sara Desai
One of the few light-read books in our list and arguably the best book of its kind this year, Sara Desai’s The Dating Plan tells the story of Daisy Patel, a software engineer who understands lists and logic better than men, and Liam Murphy, a hardworking venture capitalist and Daisy’s teenage love who broke her heart nine years prior. The two ventures into a fake to conveniently hurdle the obstacles in their miserable family life until slowly, love sparks between the pair. The Dating Plan is an emotional roller coaster ride and a fun warm novel for those wanting to feel love in the air again.
Dial A for Aunties – Jesse Q. Sutanto
A hilarious thrilling novel that is part murder-mystery, dark comedy, and romance, Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties is an unapologetic and edge-of-your-seat story about Meddelin Chan who accidentally kills her blind date, her intense mother then calls her aunties to help her get rid of the body. Things didn't go as planned when they realize the cooler in which they dispose of the body is the one that is shipped to a wedding the whole family is involved in. Dial A for Aunties is a Hitchcockian suspense that is definitely one for your books to read during this lockdown.
Afterparties: Stories – Anthony Veasna So
For our second collection of books to read, pick Anthony Veasna So's Afterparties: Stories is a story about the lives of Cambodian-Americans as they try to make it in the California Central Valley and Bay Area. The collection doesn’t step away from its perspective towards Khmer Rouge genocide, racism, and the hedonistic lifestyle America has provided for them. Anthony Veasna So’s debut collection is a striking, tragic, and sincere take on the life of an ordinary immigrant who is hoping to make it in America.
Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation - Anne Helen Petersen
Buzzfeed culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen tackles Millennials’ burnout culture like no one else in this lifestyle book, inspired by her original article published on Buzzfeed in January 2019. We can’t help but recommend this book for your quarantine reads as it examines the burnout culture phenomenon through different perspectives—socially, mentally, and physically—using analysis, studies, and various interview. Can’t Even is a definitive read for all people curious about such phenomenon.
Pizza Girl — Jean Kyoung Frazier
Nothing’s more exciting than a daring writer willing to tackle the depths and the bottom of human psyche and its nature and that is exactly what our books to read pick debutante Jean Kyoung Frazier did for her volatile debut novel Pizza Girl. Jean Kyoung Frazier features a nameless narrator who’s eighteen, pregnant, and adrift as she struggles with her life in Los Angeles while still mourning over her father’s death and distancing herself away from her suffocating mother and boyfriend. Though the story drifts along the decay of society and intensity of the situation, the story hints optimism in spite of the obstacles. Definitely, one of the best books published last year.
Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld
Before meeting Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham was a woman of potential, driven by her excellence and brilliance. After rejecting Bill’s proposal a couple of times, Hillary eventually said yes and as we know it, everything changed. Set in an alternate world, Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Rodham” follows the life of Hillary Rodham if she didn’t become Bill’s wife. A powerful take in an alternative world in the midst of actual historical events, Rodham is arguably one of the best books to ever portray the what ifs of a political figure who would have been known for other things. The book is lingering and unique, definitely a worthy read.
DIVERSITY: A Reality for America, Racism, Still Its Nightmare - Charles Nathaniel Smith
The best book to read in an era where racial tension is growing, Charles Nathaniel Smith’s Diversity chronicles the history—the best and the worst—of the African American people as they aspire to live a better life in a world of chaos. One of our most enlightening picks for our quarantine reads, Diversity recalls the past in the perspective of a writer who had seen tragedy but never lost the optimism for a better world.
… And Justice for All — Terry Lord
One of our most reflective yet suspenseful picks, Terry Lord’s …And Justice for All recalls the life of a young Terry Lord, ignorant by nature and still curious about the bigger world, until his becoming a federal prosecutor where he witnessed the violent game of crime in the name of justice. …And Justice for All is the best book to read for anyone who wants to understand the justice system and why its accessibility is an essential human right.
Bye-Bye Baby on The Tree Tops - Elizabeth Muir-Lewis
Possibly one of the most intense read in our list, Bye-Bye Baby on the Tree Tops tells the story of Jean who was stalked by a violent and vengeful man after visiting her hometown. Soon the two enters a game of cat and mouse as the tension grows torturous and riskier while the truth finally slowly unfolds as to why the man is following her. For those searching for a fun thrill ride of a story, this could be the best book to read for you.
Drifts – Kate Zambreno
A top-notch atmospheric read in this list, Drifts tackles isolation like no writer does. Kate Zambreno’s meticulous writing invokes emotions with an intent to lure readers inside the world of the novel. Drifts tells the story of an artist’s isolation and a realization that when she was driven to make a living every day, she forgets to live. Drifts is one of those quarantine reads that is boldly ambitious, yet subtle and captivating.
For more lists like this, feel free to read more on New Reader Magazine!