The Best 14 Reads From the 2020 Quarantine Book Club
Social distancing? No problem! Dive into a virtual community of book lovers with these hot picks from the Quarantine Book Club.
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What to read now
When Texas author and librarian Pamela Skjolsvik realized how many book events would be canceled after the nationwide shelter-in-place orders, she sprang into action. "As an author with a debut novel coming out in November, I was keenly aware of the devastation and sadness so many debut novelists were experiencing as they had to cancel their launch events and book tours due to the Coronavirus Pandemic," she says. "I reached out to fellow members of a Facebook group of 2020 debut novelists, and these authors agreed to engage with the book club if their titles were selected."
Skjolsvik founded the 2020 Quarantine Book Club on March 15. So far, the club has attracted more than 900 members across the United States. The 14 books she recommended for RD.com readers have release dates spanning from January to June. "They are books by, or about, women facing monumental challenges, which is kind of like all of us right now," she says. See how many of America's 100 favorite novels you've read.
The Mountains Sing
Skjolsvik says she chose The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai because it was released on March 17, just three days after the 2020 Quarantine Book Club was formed. Skjolsvik explains, "The fact that it was a compelling multi-generational story of women and had a beautiful book club kit at the ready, made it an easy choice for the first pick." The whisks readers away to 20th-century Vietnam and into the lives of the Tran family. Quế Mai, who is the author of eight books, was born in Vietnam during the tumultuous Vietnam War. This is a beautiful, complex story for lovers of historical fiction and nonfiction alike. After devouring this story, check out one of these other great books with unforgettable female friendships.
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau
Skjolsvik also recommends The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata. Skjolsvik explains, "Written by the lone male writer among all the selections in our book club, our members voted to read Mr. Zapata's book as our second official selection. The book focuses on a female science fiction writer and the lives her lost manuscript unites in post-Katrina New Orleans." Goodreads.com reviewer Robert describes The Lost Book of Adana Moreau as "a time jumping literary mystery with wonderfully written characters and even a pirate or two." This selection is perfect for fans of literary fiction, poetry, and time travel sagas. Don't miss these 10 books with fierce female heroines.
The Yellow Bird Sings
"I became emotional just reading the blurb for [Jennifer Rosner's The Yellow Bird Sings] on Amazon," Skjolsvik says. This is Rosner's debut novel after a successful memoir and poetry book launches. It's the story of a mother and daughter hiding from the Nazis in Poland in 1941. The daughter, a musical prodigy, must stay silent despite the chaos around her and melodies burning to break free in Poland, as World War II rages, a mother. Released on March 3, the book will help you escape the drudgery of solitude in your own home—and remember past beacons of hope during troubling times. These are 18 of the best short books you'll ever read.
Wildland, a novel by Rebecca Hodge, explores the fears and personal demons we must overcome in the face of death. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Anita Shreve, the novel follows protagonist Kat Jamison, recently re-diagnosed with breast cancer, as she decides whether she has the will to fight back yet again. Kathryn Craft, author of The Far End of Happy, wrote, "Hodge's band of characters pop off the page—adults, children, and dogs alike."
Lee Matalone's Home Making is, of course, appropriate for this time of social distancing and sequestering ourselves alone or with our families. "Since we're all stuck at home right now, this selection seems like, well, right at home," says Skjolsvik. The book itself weaves together three stories of individuals who must make a home and family for themselves: Cybil, a successful doctor with a turbulent past; Chloe, Cybil's daughter, who suddenly finds herself single and childless in an empty Virginia house; and Beau, Chloe's close friend, who is struggling to make sense of his sexual identity and the romance he's found online. Through these stories, Matalone asks questions about identity, family, and what ultimately makes a home. Don't miss these other binge-worthy books for adults after you've finished Home Making.
No Bad Deed
Heather Chavez's No Bad Deed will sweep you away from your living room and into a world fraught with twisty terror and chilling crime. It's the action-packed thriller of the Quarantine Book Club. Skjolsvik says she was immediately drawn to the book and its brave protagonist, a woman ever on the brink of danger after her attempt to stop a crime turns personal and menacing. Her quest for her missing husband will have readers breathlessly turning pages into the night—with the lights on! Don't miss more of these best thrillers you should put on your reading list today.
Mimi Lee Gets a Clue
There is no better time than a quarantine to embrace the cozy mystery genre. Jennifer J. Chow-March's Mimi Lee Gets a Clue, which debuted on March 10, tells the story of Mimi Lee, a Los Angeles-based pet groomer who ends up on the suspect list for the murder of a local breeder. Fans have been delighted by Marshmallow, the tale's chatty feline, and Josh, the main character's smart, handsome neighbor. Skjolsvik says, "This quick, fun read will make you want to snuggle up under a blanket and stay home! Plus, there's a cat talking! What's not to love?" We're putting this one on our reading to-dos right along side these books you need to read to call yourself a book lover.
How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life (or Couples Therapy with a Dead Man)
Billie Best's memoir, How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life (or Couples Therapy with a Dead Man), is about more than one writer's midlife crisis. It is about how to pick up the pieces after realizing the man you married—who has since died—was not exactly who you thought he was. Skjolsvik wholeheartedly recommends "this self-published title from blogger Billie Best (say that three times fast!)," which "addresses the death of her husband and the challenge and blessings of being an older woman in contemporary society." Nonfiction fans should stock their e-readers with more of these 17 memoirs everyone should read.
Daughters of Smoke and Fire
Ava Homa's first English novel, Daughters of Smoke and Fire, will debut on May 12. Set in Iran, the novel unpacks the story of Leila, a Kurdish filmmaker, and her brother, an activist caught in the crossfire of political conflict. The story will resonate with fans of Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun. For other good reads full of complex stories and international intrigue, fill your virtual shopping cart with more of these bestselling books from the last decade.