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Books to Escape With

Responsible global citizens are following news about the latest in COVID-19 developments in their communities and around the world, listening to experts, and taking precautions to keep themselves and their communities safe, so many of us are finding ourselves with a lot more quiet time at home. It’s important to stay informed (and we’ve put together a list of our books to help understand the situation), but we also sometimes need a break from the heaviness of the day’s news. 

Below, we’ve put together a handful of books for anyone who’s practicing social distancing, quarantined, or just looking for an engrossing new read. Books that tell stories about our world, history, and even books themselves.

Nonfiction


 

Gertrude Stein Has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend

Roy Morris, Jr.

The American book tour that catapulted Gertrude Stein from quirky artist to a household name.

"[Morris's] writing is brisk and breezy... he magnifies and makes new."

— Wall Street Journal

 

 

The Lost Books of Jane Austen

Janine Barchas

"The lesson of this delicious book is that [Jane Austen] was even more popular for even longer with an even greater variety of readers than we ever thought."

— John Mullan, The Guardian

"For all the Janeites on your list, reach for The Lost Books of Jane Austen... it's a fascinating, richly illustrated study of what we can learn from the numerous popular editions of Austen's novels that appeared during the 19th and 20th centuries."

— Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

 
 

 

The Making of Jane Austen

Devoney Looser

An engaging account of how Jane Austen became a household name.

"An informative and delightful read for literary lovers who want to learn more about one of the most celebrated authors of all time, The Making of Jane Austen puts the famed novelist in a whole new light."

Bustle

 
 

 

Not Even Past: The Stories We Keep Telling About the Civil War

Cody Marrs

How the Civil War endures in American life through literature and culture.

"Marrs weaves a complex history to capture the essence of the literature and art surrounding the Civil War, resulting in a valuable work beneficial to a variety of collections."

Library Journal

 
 

 

The Sting of the Wild

Justin O. Schmidt

The "King of Sting" describes his adventures with insects and the pain scale that’s made him a scientific celebrity.

"Beautifully written... like nothing else you have ever read."

— NPR's Science Friday

 
 

 

Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver

Graham Russell Gao Hodges

Revised with a new chapter on the era of ridesharing

"The definitive book on New York cabs."

USA Today

 
 

 

Nightmare Factories: The Asylum in the American Imagination

Troy Rondinone

A journey through fact, fiction, and horror in search of how the insane asylum came to exert its powerful hold on the American imagination.

"Will appeal to a broad range of readers, from academics interested in the history of medicine and popular culture, to general readers seeking social history rooted in an imaginative variety of sources."

— Library Journal

 
 

 

Killing for the Republic: Citizen-Soldiers and the Roman Way of War

Steele Brand

How Rome's citizen-soldiers conquered the world—and why this militaristic ideal still has a place in America today.

"Brand's book should be read with care by Americans as our republic enters its twilight... Readers of many tastes will receive great enjoyment from Brand's book."

— William S. Smith, The American Conservative

 

 

Poetry & Fiction


 

Deep Gossip: New and Selected Poems

Sidney Wade

A great and frequently subversive book by a lyric poet at the height of her craft.

"This is a book suffused with light—dappled, blazing, luminosity and its shadow. She seems to be saying that we must look closely at the earth, and she is a transcendent guide to all we could lose."

 

 

Staten Island Stories

Claire Jimenez

Winner of the 2019 Hornblower Award for a First Book from the New York City Book Awards

"These stories are deeply grounded in a particular place and community but will resonate with readers everywhere... Her prose, especially the dialogue, snaps with authentic immediacy... Staten Island Stories concerns ugly times and circumstances, but the people and the stories are beautiful."

 
 

 

Catch, Release

Adrianne Harun

Grand Prize Winner of the Eric Hoffer Award

"Told in poised, often shimmering prose, these tales distress and confound... The larger, tragic landscape Harun sketches is acutely destabilizing, wonderfully inscrutable and, at moments, ravenously absurd."

 
 

 

Subcortical

Lee Conell

Recipient of the 2018 Story Prize Spotlight Award.

"Conell brings the characters in her rich debut collection to life in weird, wise, and often poignant ways."

 
 

 

Ballyhoo

Hastings Hensel

A poetry collection that grapples with the tragicomic nature of language, memory, love, work, and the performative self.

"I will return to these finely spun poems many times."