Right now, many of us are championing WFH, or work from home status. Some of us now have the luxury of extra downtime, which means, now more than ever, it’s easier to crack open a book and start on that New Year’s reading resolution we have been putting off. A good book can allow us to escape and ward off the climate of anxiety we are currently facing. Movies like Contagion and World War Z are good if you like confronting doom headfirst, but nothing can transport you to another world, sans travel bans and toilet paper shortages, like the dog–eared page of a new novel.
Here’s a list of what Street Editors are reading during this prolonged spring break:
Book: Kafka On the Shore
Genre: Magical Realism
I’m currently re-reading Kakfa On the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. The book opens with a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who escapes from home to avoid a deathly prophecy. The novel’s magical realism completely transports you to a world of talking cats, endless udon noodles, and magical paintings. Murakami’s prose is both comforting and unpredictable, and as we dive deeper into his universe, there are more mysteries to unravel. This makes it the perfect read to satisfy your craving for an otherworldly tale.
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Every Christmas Eve, I’d snuggle up in my favorite chair and read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares cover to cover. Its earnest, teenaged wonder made for the perfect distraction and if there’s anything we need right now, it’s more of those. In the book turned soon–to–be Netflix series, Dash is a strapping curmudgeon who hates the holidays and Lily is the kind of person who puts the tree up right after Thanksgiving, all cheery and innocent. The polar opposites send each other on adventures throughout New York City as they swap a red Moleskin notebook, romance tinting each clue. Penned by two different authors, with the chapters alternating perspectives, this novel is refreshingly self–aware, subverting every young adult trope as it uses them.
Book: Station Eleven
Genre: Science Fiction
I have severe anxiety. Like many anxious people, I fear that which I cannot understand or control, and one of my coping mechanisms has always been to read and watch as much as possible about the current object of my fear. That’s why I watch movies about home invasions, read news reports about devastating car crashes, and why, in the midst of a global pandemic, I’m returning to a book I read years ago about the aftermath of a devastating disease. I do this in part to justify my anxiety and in part to mitigate it, to make my fears concrete instead of abstract. Mandel’s work is terrifying, examining not only the physiological effects of the “Georgia Flu” but also how it leads to a societal collapse. And yet, Mandel never loses sight of hope. No matter what, there will always be friendship, family, and traveling amateur theatre troupes.
Genre: Realistic Fiction and Romance
I’m re-reading this book at the moment, which has served as both a well–needed respite (thinking about other people’s problems always helps me forget mine), as well as a way to confront the loneliness I’m starting to feel as my life on campus abruptly stops for awhile. The protagonist, Eleanor Oliphant, is the classic definition of a loner. She doesn’t interact with anyone but her co–workers, who don’t like her very much. Even with the more depressing themes of isolation and loneliness, there’s a really sweet love story running throughout the novel along with a riveting narrative about reckoning with a traumatic past. The book really has it all for those trying to fully immerse themselves into another world, so much so that you can’t help but root for Eleanor the whole time.
Book: The Yoga Store Murder
Genre: True Crime
This is a true story about a murder that took place in a swanky Lululemon athleisure shop as two coworkers were closing up. The detectives wonder and investigate if it was an inside job. The story is engaging and well–reported, and will make you feel like nowhere is safe (kind of like how you’re already feeling). It made me think hard about how race and class affect our criminal justice system.
Recommended if you like: murder mysteries, true crime podcasts, Law and Order
Book: Levels of Life
Genre: Memoir, Creative Nonfiction
If you’re looking for a book that will make you forget about the fearful times we live in, this isn’t it. This hybrid genre book explores a lot of different topics, including hot air balloons and aerial photography. But it deals fundamentally with grief. Author Julian Barnes writes about the death of his wife after 30 years of marriage, describing his experience of the aftermath and how he works to honor his wife’s memory. His prose is sparse but rich with feeling, and I’ve cried more than once re–reading it. The book shows readers grief is only possible when loves come first. I’ll leave you with a quote from a letter Barnes received after his wife’s death, which has helped me through tough times: “Nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain, I think. If it didn't matter, it wouldn't matter.”
Book: Since We Fell
Genre: Psychological Thriller
If you’re looking for a book to help you fall asleep at night, then keep scrolling because that’s what I tried to do with Since We Fell. Instead of snoozing, I found myself staying up until 6 a.m., turning page after page until my eyes couldn’t handle any more about former journalist Rachel Childs and the mental breakdown that cost her a career. It’s a poignant work of fiction that brings in historical events such as the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, making the book seem like a journalistic account. But as Rachel’s journalism track and search for her father serve as surface–level plot points, readers are in for a whole other ride as Rachel’s world is turned upside down. Bounty hunters and police chases included, this book creatines an almost fast–paced cinematic experience.
Book: Franny and Zooey
Genre: Novella, Realistic Fiction
This short story by J.D. Salinger will leave you with more questions than answers, but will grant you the immense pleasure of trying to figure them out as you go along. It orbits around the sibling dynamic between the titular characters and places a lens on gifted children long after their supposed golden years expire. It addresses concepts of self–identity, religion, and a deteriorating household cohesion. The prose itself is hauntingly beautiful and will remind you that great literature is something we need to cling onto now, more than ever.