Six Furlough Fiction Reads

I live in DC, and I have a lot of friends who are furloughed thanks to the federal budget impasse. I am sure that some of you guys are getting restless at home with all the unexpected downtime. (Once your closets are cleaned out and you’ve gone to the gym, what are you supposed to do with your time?) While I hope for everyone’s sake that the furlough ends soon, in case it extends another week or two, here are some books to consider picking up while you’re at home. They aren’t terribly long, so you should be able to finish one or two before you go back to work, and they are engrossing enough to keep your mind off the annoying situation on Capitol Hill keeping you from work.

Six Furlough Fiction Reads

1. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. This one just came out, and I just started it, so I don’t have a review yet to link to. But Lahiri’s other books are wonderful (The Namesake is my favorite), and this one is also supposed to be great. Check out Swapna’s review at S.Krishna’s Books. She is an East Asian fiction expert, so she knows of which she blogs. If you haven’t read The Namesake yet, that’s another great furlough read. You could even make a whole day of it and rent the movie afterwards – here’s my take on Book vs. Movie: The Namesake.

2. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. This isn’t Maynard’s latest novel, but I really liked it and think it’d make an excellent furlough read. It’s about a long weekend, told through the eyes of a 13 year-old boy whose mother has taken in a fugitive. Labor Day is sad and haunting but memorable. Bonus: it’s being made into a movie with Kate Winslet due out at the end of the year. Hopefully it will NOT be a furlough movie.

3. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. I loved this book (as have millions of others). If you missed it in 2010, it’s the story of an immigrant girl from Hong Kong who toils away in a New York City sweatshop while trying to learn English and ultimately get accepted to college.  Girl in Translation is heartbreaking and eye-opening, and would be a good book to get your mind off your own problems.

4. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. I read this one last fall, and it has really stayed with me. It’s about a dystopian world in which the earth’s rotation has slowed down. The Age of Miracles is one of the most creative books I’ve ever read. Walker’s depiction of the gradual changes brought on by the slowdown, and the ways in which people reacted to those changes, was both realistic and totally original. It’s a stressful read, but again, it will take your mind off the furlough.

5. Anything by Jennifer Haigh, but in particular The Condition and Baker Towers. I love everything this woman has ever written, but if you’re just starting out with Haigh, try those first. They are deeply involving and moving novels that suck you in with measured prose and perfectly paced storytelling.

6.  Finally, you can read a debut novel BY a furloughed government worker, Michael Landweber. We is his highly creative book about a fortysomething who finds that he can go back in time into the mind of his seven-year self, thus presenting the opportunity to prevent a terrible event that befell his sister. It’s a quick, exhilarating read by a promising new writer.

So while you’re passing the hours at home trying not to check your Blackberry (yes, Blackberry – this is the government), give these books a try. And then let me know what you thought.



  • October 14, 2013 - 8:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve only read one Jennifer Haigh book but I loved it. I loved Labor Day too. Great list!

  • October 14, 2013 - 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Just added Labor Day and The Age of Miracles to my TBR shelf. (I think one of my kids read the latter, but I hadn’t heard of Labor Day). I love Jennifer Haigh, too.

  • October 14, 2013 - 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I read Labor Day and Girl in Translation – enjoyed both. Looking forward to having time to read The Lowland. Also, I’ve read at least 3 of Haigh’s books but not The Condition (yet). Good list!

  • Bryan
    October 19, 2013 - 2:52 am | Permalink

    Really loved Age of Miracles.

    Also looking forward to Lowlands, I may read that next. I just got Madd Adam though so I am going to be on that next I think.

    Hope things are going well Gayle!

    • gayle
      October 22, 2013 - 12:21 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Bryan! Impressive that you’re taking on Madd Adam – seems daunting to me!

  • Elisabeth
    October 20, 2013 - 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I am a fan of Lahri and look forward to reading her new book. I also really enjoyed Girl in Translation, though it was very depressing. I don’t remember thinking of Age of Miracles as stressful, bur found it an interesting concept that I haven’t read about before. Like you, I am a huge Haigh Fan! I recently read Faith. So good! News From Heaven was also good and had some characters in it from The Baker Towers.

    • gayle
      October 22, 2013 - 12:21 am | Permalink

      Glad you approve of the books on the list!

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