Category Archives: Coronavirus Reading Lists

7 Backlist Books I Want To Read

Are you running out of books to read? (If yes, I can’t relate, given the stacks of books piled up in my house). If you want to borrow ebooks or audiobooks from your library without a wait, here are 7 backlist books that remain at the top of my TBR. They may be available from your library sooner than new releases.

Someday, someday I’ll get to them.

  1. The Ensemble (2018) by Aja Gabel – relationships between four musicians in a classical quartet tracked over the years
  2. The Dream Daughter (2018) by Diane Chamberlain – time travel + a mother with an unborn child with a heart defect + amazing reviews
  3. Home Is Burning (2015) by Dan Marshall – memoir about twentysomething who moves home when his mother, who has cancer, calls to tell him that his father has ALS. Incredibly, this is supposed to be funny.
  4. Christodora (2016) by Tim Murphy – novel tracking characters through many changes in East Village, with focus on heartbreak caused by AIDS
  5. Saints For All Occasions (2017) by J. Courtney Sullivan – not sure how I haven’t gotten to this book about secrets between sisters, because I’ve loved her other books
  6. Plainsong (2000) by Kent Haruf – I fell in love with his Our Souls At Night last year and can’t wait to read this book about unexpected friendships
  7. The Heart’s Invisible Furies (2017) by John Boyne – this book about an Irishman in search of his identity comes very highly recommended

8 Awesome Books About The 80s

This pandemic has made me nostalgic. Something about quarantine has made me – and clearly other people I know – reach out to old friends and set up Zoom reunions to get back in touch. Seems like we’re all casting back to easier and happier times. If you find yourself in a similarly nostalgic mood… here are my favorite books about my favorite decade, the 80s. Pick up one of these and take a trip back to a really different time.

  1. VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave: Oral history of MTV’s early days told by Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman and Martha Quinn. From my review: “Give it a try – it’s a light but surprisingly engrossing read about a unique time at the intersection of television and music. MTV will never again be what it once was, nor will the music industry, but VJ: The Unplugged Adventures at least memorializes those bygone days.”
  2. Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins. Memoir of Collins’ life, from childhood through his Genesis and solo careers. From my review: “I thoroughly enjoyed Not Dead Yet, especially the behind-the-scenes look at the music, the bands and the touring. I am addicted to 80s nostalgia, and Not Dead Yet did not disappoint. If you were even a casual Genesis or Phil fan, I think you’ll enjoy this book.”
  3. Don’t You Forget About Me by Jancee Dunn. Woman in late thirties returns home to parents’ house in this funny novel about the dangers of romanticizing high school in the 80s. From my review: “Dunn is an entertaining writer, and the book was perfectly paced. I laughed out loud several times while reading it, and didn’t want to put it down.”
  4. You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried by Susannah Gora. Detailed, juicy and insightful chronicle of the making of the great teen 80s movies. From my review: “It’s definitely a trip down memory lane, but also a compelling look at a decade of filmmaking that transformed a genre and made a permanent impact on the directors and actors we watch today.”
  5. In The Pleasure Groove by John Taylor. Memoir by Taylor, the bass player for Duran Duran who is thankfully on the other side of a bout with coronavirus. From my review: “Despite my familiarity with this fact pattern, it felt fresh and even suspenseful in Taylor’s words. I don’t know who partnered on this book with him, but it’s smart, well-written and very funny at times. Taylor is pretty honest about his flaws, especially when it comes to his drug use and self-centeredness throughout his addiction, but he is also grateful for – and even a little bit in awe of – all that Duran Duran achieved as a band and the experiences he had.”
  6. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. This is a beautifully written book about Chicago in the mid-80s and how AIDS ravaged the gay community there. It is not a light read, but it is an excellent one. From my review: The Great Believers is about friendship and loyalty, and how our devotion to one person or cause can have consequences in other parts of our lives. It’s a long book, one that requires attention and thought. It took me a long time to get through it, but it was an immersive and very satisfying read.”
  7. Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein. I never reviewed this book, but I love it. From Amazon: “Mad World is a highly entertaining oral history that celebrates the New Wave music phenomenon of the 1980s via new interviews with 35 of the most notable artists of the period. Each chapter begins with a discussion of their most popular song but leads to stories of their history and place in the scene”.
  8. Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them from Movies Anymore) by Hadley Freeman. I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my TBR and I will get to it at some point soon. It’s about “how the changes between movies in the 80s and movies today say so much about society’s expectations of women, young people and art.”

7 Books I Could Not Put Down

I have no attention span these days. Part of the problem is that I am multitasking on steroids, rotating with alarming speed between doing my job and parenting and running a house, while also functioning under a steady moderate to high level of anxiety. Not the most conducive circumstances for reading. Yet, reading is what I crave. So it is taking a special group of books to hold my attention now. Here are some of the books from past reading years that I simply could not put down. Maybe they will grab your attention in these remarkable days as well.

In no particular order:

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (historical fiction, literally the most addictive read ever)

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (smart romance)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (bittersweet, start of a trilogy)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (literary fiction about race in modern America)

The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks (psychological thriller)

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (juggernaut Southern novel)

The Risen by Ron Rash (brothers with an old secret)

Stay safe and happy reading.

8 Excellent Memoirs

Here’s another quarantine reading list for you: my favorite memoirs. A good memoir can be incredibly enriching, transporting readers into another life through personal perspective and storytelling. And we could all use some transporting right now.

Becoming by Michelle Obama – the mother of all memoirs
Open by Andre Agassi – I still think about this book, years after I read it
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen – long but entertaining the whole way
Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson – memoir of a military widow
Maid by Stephanie Land – necessary perspective on low-wage jobs
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro – midlife DNA surprise
Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson – heartbreaking memoir about loss of son
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan – sandwich generation + cancer

Perhaps one of these memoirs will give you some hours of escape.

10 Light Books For Heavy Minds

Sometimes you need light reading to take your mind off whatever’s going on. This is one of those times! Here are 10 books I liked that are entertaining and relatively light while still satisfying and worth your time.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice)

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (will they won’t they among feuding coworkers)

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan (middle aged mom meets tech workplace)

The Book Of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (will teenager escape her fundamentalist reality TV family? NOTE there are some dark/heavy themes here, so it’s not really a light read, but it’s a fast one)

Lost And Found by Carolyn Parkhurst (literary fiction meets “The Amazing Race”)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (man with Asperger’s seeks wife)

One Day In December by Josie Silver (soul mates kept apart by fate)

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin (Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marriage imagined in fiction)

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (dsyfunctional family)

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (WASPs behaving badly)

Stay safe and happy reading.