By Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 29, 2020
For many of us, this is an unprecedented time. Our world has changed and it's a lot to digest. Many of us are struggling with anxiety and stress. We know that reading should help, but at the same time, it's harder than ever to focus. Maybe it's just a matter of getting ahold of the right book. So we've rounded up a list of reading recs from contemporary authors.
A glorious, slender volume of vignettes telling the story of six-year-old Sophia and her grandmother spending the summer together on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. In spare, crystalline prose, the novel deftly explores all that matters most in life. "On an island," thinks the grandmother, "everything is complete."
A daring, smart, and deeply emotional novel about race, pop culture, immigration, and assimilation. Willis Wu is a bit player on a procedural cop show called Black and White, but he dreams of bigger things. After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis is launched into a wild journey that sets the myth-making machines of our culture on fire.
This epic, beautifully written masterwork chronicles one of the great, untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. "They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left."
A favorite with children and adults all over the world since it was first published in 1910! This is the story of two broken children who find healing as they work to bring a garden back to life. "'Is the spring coming?' he said. 'What is it like?' . . . 'It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine...'"
This gripping Dickensian masterpiece offers everything needed to distract you from the grim news cycle: an arresting narrative voice, outrageous suspense, Victorian horrors, erotic thrills, complicated characters, mystifying plot twists, and even a hopeful ending.
Perhaps your perfect diversion from our current situation will be found in this deeply reported investigation of America's housing crisis. With a focus on the San Francisco Bay Area, this beat-by-beat exposé peels back the layers of this complex issue with propulsive storytelling and on-the-ground reporting.
Austen's last completed novel is a perfect example of her enduring power, mixing biting social criticism with the sweetness of hard-won love. Like so many of Austen's protagonists, Anne Elliot is intelligent, sensitive, and, ultimately, irresistible. As her beau tells her, "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope . . . I have loved none but you."
In the wake of the Civil War, an aging Captain agrees to take custody of a young orphan, newly rescued from her Kiowa captors, and deliver her to surviving relatives. As the unlikely pair travel across a perilous Texas landscape, they form one of the quirkiest, most satisfying friendships in modern literature.
Welty is on familiar ground with this collection of seven linked stories, portraying the residents of a small Mississippi town. A review from The New Yorker says, "I doubt that a better book about 'the South'—one that more completely gets the feel of the particular texture of Southern life and its special tone and pattern—has ever been written."
This lovely slim novel sings with a timely resonance. An elderly widow drops in on her neighbor, a widower, whom she imagines is as lonely as she is herself. The visit sparks a connection that neither of them expected. "Who would have thought at this time in our lives that we'd still have something like this?"
The books recommended by these authors give us an excellent list to consider, but then, so do their own books! Hopefully you find something here that will serve as a good departure from your worries. Feel free to chime in and let us know if you have any comforting reads of your own to recommend.
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