When it comes to how we spend our down time, our office is pretty evenly divided into two camps: "the readers" and "the watchers" (we will let you determine where you think each of us lands). So, while some of us are more inclined to enjoy our quarantinis alongside a classic, feel-good film, others have been plowing through a rather impressive number of novels. And a special few, "team ambidextrous," have been doing a bit of each! We asked our office's go-to bibliophiles, Leslie and Kelly, to round up their favorite, can't-put-them-down books, in no particular order. Their only qualifications were that they finished each book within 24 hours of picking it up, and that each selection would help provide a meaningful escape to your evening (or day) at home:
Important note: We linked the books to Target or Amazon for ease and availability, but highly recommend you purchase the books through independent bookstores if possible! Skylight Bookstore in L.A. is now shipping nationally, as is Powell's, and the new online ordering site, Book Shop, raises money for independent bookstores. Indie Bound is also a great resource for finding local bookstores. It's more important than ever to support indie bookstores and small businesses in general!
The Martian by Andy Weir: It's admittedly a broad category, but I love a book where a person is stuck in one place and needs to make the most of their surroundings or escape (sound familiar? ha, ha...). Andy Weir does a fantastic job of imagining an astronaut trapped on Mars trying to find his way home.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy: Even the worst memoir is still binge-able to me. As long as someone is writing honestly about their life, I will devour it—and this one by Ariel Levy is among my absolute favorites.
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne: I didn't know anything about this book before picking it up, and I'm glad I kept it a mystery because I probably wouldn't have read it based solely on the cover. Just trust me and dive headlong into its 700 pages. It won't take you nearly as long as you think it will...
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Amor Towles is one of my all-time favorite authors, which is really saying something because he's only written two books (if you don't count his novellas). Read A Gentleman in Moscow so you can endlessly debate with your brain which is your favorite of the two.
The State of the Union by Nick Hornby: Nick Hornby's (who also wrote many of my favorite movies) novella tells the story of a couple with vignettes separated by a week, before their meetings with a marriage counselor. It's laugh-out-loud funny, but also incredibly sweet. Easily a book you can read in one sitting with a glass of wine!
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: I started this book four times before finally committing to it, and I'm so glad I did. Once I got past the confusion of the multiple male characters, I sped through it, literally reading the vast majority of it over the course of one night. The only other book I've ever done that with is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card—another favorite, albeit much nerdier pick (you'll notice Kelly and I both have a soft spot for sci-fi).
Room by Emma Donoghue: I read Emma's haunting thriller years ago, but still think about it regularly. In it, a woman is locked in a room with her young son where her only contact with the outside world is her rapist/kidnapper. Told from the perspective of her son, the story is both endearing and painful at the same time.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty: Doughty's memoir uses her experience working in a crematorium to explore the death industry and our less-than-healthy relationship with it. But, it's also somehow hilarious? Read it!
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton: This book sparked my (unhealthy) obsession with not only its author (my signed copy is a prized possession) and her restaurant (Prune is my favorite in New York), but also with Italian food and butter, more generally. What I'm trying to say is: It's an excellent read.
Gillian Flynn's books: I'm guessing we've all read Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, but if you haven't, I'm jealous you get to pick them up for the first time. Flynn's wicked sense of humor and ability to craft wild plot twists have ruined nearly all other thrillers for me. She is that brilliant!
Love Warrior and Untamed by Glennon Doyle: Both of these memoirs, about an addict's experience in marriage, love, and recovery, are recent favorites so I can confidently vouch for their high readability under social isolation. P.S., Though Love Warrior provides important context to Untamed, you don't necessarily have to read it before diving into Untamed.
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: If you have any book by Mary Roach sitting on your shelf, do yourself a favor and pick it up now. Her research into a variety of topics including sex, the digestive system, military, and space travel are all informative and, more importantly, hilarious. The sense of curiosity she brings to all of her writing is something I find incredibly inspiring, but my very favorite book by her is this one: an exploration of what happens to our bodies after we die.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Every once in a while, a YA book can be exactly what I need to get over a reading hump. Since they're often plot- rather than character-driven they're almost always page-turners. As an added bonus, Garber's Caraval will completely transport you to another universe; one full of magic. And if you love the first, it's a series! I'm also a fan of Maze Runner by James Dashner and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for similar reasons.
Educated by Tara Westover: This is one of those books where it gets better before it gets worse... In it, Westover struggles to find her own values away from her family of survivalists, without completely ostracizing herself from her own family and roots.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: This novel, about a first-generation Jamaican woman in London, floats between hilarious and heart-breaking moments as she navigates a painful breakup and, well, life.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: If you haven't read The Nightingale yet, make this one of your quarantine picks. It's a beautiful work of historical fiction, exploring World War II from the perspective of two sisters in France. It's easily in the top five books I've ever read!
The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov: This is my actual favorite book, but only read this one if you like science fiction. Written in 1955, it explores the idea of an elevator shaft running through time. Through this method of time travel, major events are constantly monitored and occasionally altered by Time's "government." It's a thrilling read that will really make you think about the morality and paradox of time travel.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: You've probably already heard of this epic fantasy/sci-fi story about an unusual young boy who plays "war games" with other kids his age via computer simulation. If you haven't read it yet, and you liked Harry Potter, make this your next pick!
The Holdout by Graham Moore: This was our March "Of The Month Club" pick, and I loved it! It wasn't a work of literary genius, but I read it in one sitting and it kept me entertained to the very end. In it, a jury on a famous murder case gets together ten years later to record a documentary, and one of the jurors is killed the night before filming begins. You'll spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who killed the juror, why, and was our original jury right or wrong?
Recursion by Blake Crouch: I read this after binge-reading Dark Matter and tearing through Season 1 of Wayward Pines. Recursion is another sci-fi thriller/romance that doesn't disappoint. If you could go back and change an event from the past, would you? And more importantly, should you?
Normal People by Sally Rooney: How is a book without a plot this good??? Normal People is the story of two damaged young adults, Connell and Marianne, who have a secret relationship that they carry from high school into college. It's a story about the ebbs and flows of their unusual relationship (and their lives), and for some reason, it's mesmerizing.
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: I LOVE a good controversy. Crawdads was the bestselling book in 2019, but the ending is SUPER divisive. Personally, I really liked the book but despised the ending. What I've liked the most, though, is how many conversations I've now had with people about it, and for me, that makes it worth a read!
The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch: Don't read this unless you like sci-fi. If you like this genre, though, I'm still thinking about this book months later. It's really tough to fully describe, but it follows special agent Shannon Moss as she investigates the murder of a family and tries to find their missing daughter. She travels forward in time to find clues about the case, and learns about an event called "The Terminus" that is coming dangerously close. Sounds weird, but trust me, I couldn't put this one down. [Ed note from Leslie: Kelly! I promise to give you your copy back post 'shelter in place' 😬]
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: This book is so weird. A few seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for an interstellar freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford who takes him on an epic journey through space. This book is more funny than serious, making it very odd, but totally entertaining.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: This is an eerie mystery about a group of friends, a house on a private island, an accident, and plenty of secrets with an ending that will spin your head. If you love a mystery and shows like Gossip Girl or Riverdale, give We Were Liars a shot.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll: Ani, a glamorous young woman with a "seemingly perfect" life, has a major secret from high school that made her seek an entirely new identity. What happened to Ani, and why was it so painful? I had no idea where this book was going to end up, and I absolutely loved it.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer: A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about our lovable hero, Arthur Less, who embarks on a trip around the world to distract himself from the wedding invitation he received from his ex-boyfriend. It was so lovely and relatable; I'd read it again and again.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai: Leslie is pretty sure this is the only book on this list she didn't actually read in 24 hours, but only because she actively tried to read it slowly to prolong its end! It explores the AIDS crisis in the '80s through an incredibly real cast of characters; Kelly basically sobbed through the entire thing and still has teardrop splotches on her copy.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: If you feel like reading a book about a pandemic right now (arguments could be made for that being comforting or terrifying), Station Eleven is an incredibly well-written story about a virus that kills 99% of the population and the years before and after.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: This book was an instant best-seller when it came out in 2016, with good reason. It addresses a question we've all asked ourselves, "Would I be happier if I'd only made [x] life choice?" in an extremely cool, page-turning format. Part sci-fi, part romance, and incredibly thrilling. Kelly considers it to be one of her favorite books of all time.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: This book has it all! Ready Player One explores a dystopian future where we spend the majority of our time represented by avatars in a virtual reality world called "The Oasis." It's both a love story and an action-packed adventure—perfect if you're looking for a fun, quick read.
All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Severance by Ling Ma, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
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