Dear Ann Cannon • You are a writer and a lover of literature. Can you give us a suggested reading list of books to read while in isolation?
— Avid Reader
Dear Avid Reader • Thanks for this excellent and timely question. I passed it along to the booksellers at The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, and here are their recommendations:
Betsy Burton • “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride. Sportcoat, an aging sot from the Brooklyn Projects, shoots a baseball-star-turned-drug-dealer — and then forgets he’s done it — in a novel as boisterously funny as it is touching, as truth-telling at it is wacky.
There’s also “The Mirror and the Light” by Hilary Mantel. As Thomas Cromwell (“Wolf Hall,” “Bring Up the Bodies”) alternately soothes and schemes in the present and dreams of times past, Henry Tudor — arrogant, erratic, insecure — reminds us of our own country and its leader today. Brilliant, utterly involving and hundreds of pages long, this is the perfect way to while away the coming hours, days, even weeks ahead.
Sue Fleming • I recently read “The Last Woman in the Room,” a fictionalized bio of Hedy Lamarr. Who knew she should have been an active member of our defense department during WWII? I enjoyed watching her old movies available from the library afterward.
Linda Gurrister • I recommend “One Last River of Song” by Brian Doyle. This is the perfect antidote for these troubled days as Brian Doyle’s essays on wonder remind us to pay attention to all the miracles still occurring in the ordinary world. It keeps me hopeful.
Anne Holman • I agree with Linda!
Dawn Houghton • I love getting lost in the world of “Olive Kitteridge” and the subsequent “Olive Again” by Elizabeth Strout — beautiful writing, one of the most memorable characters in modern literature, and a read worthy of repeating.
Mackenzi Lee • I recommend “Your House Will Pay” by Steph Cha. Two families, one black and one Korean, clash in the midst of the L.A. riots in 1991, and their children pay the consequences in 2019 when another act of senseless violence divides them. Both a gripping thriller and a deep revelation of race relations and racism in America, I couldn’t put this book down.
I also recommend “Upright Women Wanted” by Sarah Gailey. Set in a dystopian future that resembles the Old West, this novella follows a group of rebel librarians determined to get books to the masses no matter the dangerous consequences. A quick, super fun read that’s part Wild West and part sci-fi adventure.
Paula Longhurst • For a funny, quirky series, I recommend the Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch. Best description? Harry Potter meets CSI. Start with the first, “Midnight Riot.” I also recommend “Things in a Jar” by Jess Kidd, which features a Victorian female Sherlock Holmes with a dark past that she’ll have to confront in order to solve her latest case.
Margaret Brennan Neville • All of the famous big fantasy series are time-consuming and immersive. Revisit the Shire and Middle Earth with Tolkien and then see if you can find threads of his work in “Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin. For the kids, go to C. S. Lewis’s Narnia and then on to Christopher Paolini’s world of Eragon. (Paolini has a new book coming out this fall!)
Michaela Riding • “Upstream” by Mary Oliver is perfect for spring — full of thoughtful lyrical essays that praise the world of violets and owls and resilience in the face of fear. I also recommend “Circe” by Madeline Miller. Circe is a goddess in exile who makes absolutely the most of that time! Would that we could all tame pet lions while we are quarantined. Would that we could all be best friends with her.
Thanks to The King’s English for these stellar recommendations! Hopefully, you can find something here that will make you read and rejoice.