What I’m Reading During COVID-19 Quarantine

Diversifying my next round of reading

We’ve been very fortunate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both our jobs are intact and easily done from the safety of our homes. We love spending time together and have used the hours I’m not commuting to partner on projects around the house or binge watch shows on Hulu. When the weather is cooperating in the evenings and on weekends, we’re able to walk around our neighborhood while socially distancing. And when it’s not pleasant outside, we’ve been able to catch up and connect with family and friends via video and phone.

This time ‘Staying Home – Staying Healthy,’ as our governor named our state’s quarantine effort, has for us been an opportunity for reflection and relaxation. A time to slow down, take stock, and plan ahead.

I know this is not remotely everyone’s experience and that many people are facing unbearable hardships, losses, and uncertainty. That even as some counties, states, and countries are re-opening their businesses and borders, we are still learning how life will look in the months and years ahead. Knowing that our household — along with many others — could very well be impacted in small or significant ways at any time and with no notice. I’m grateful my family and friends are so far safe and healthy, and I continue looking for opportunities to support people and businesses who have not been so lucky.

Working in health care, I have been particularly cognizant of how this virus has inequitably impacted certain communities and the long road ahead to recovery. And as much as COVID-19 has turned a spotlight on health inequities, it pales in comparison to the bright light the recent instances of police brutality are shining on social injustice and systemic racism in our country.

I am still finding my voice in this space. Right now I’m trying to listen and absorb information, acknowledge how little I know, identify and address my preconceived notions and biases, and understand how I can help.

As someone who values education and the pursuit of knowledge, I am committed to learning everything I can. As someone who has benefited from the diversity of perspectives that can be gained by traveling, I am committed to continuing to engage with people from cultures different from my own. And as someone who has always turned to literature as a means for achieving both knowledge and perspective, I am committed to expanding my reading list to encompass new and varied viewpoints and voices. I understand my responsibility for seeking out this information for myself, and I am doing so with intention. It is certainly not all I can or will do — but it’s a place to start.

I will do this with intention because when I originated the idea for this blog post about what I’ve been reading during the past few months of Staying Home – Staying Healthy, I was downright pleased to find that I’ve spent the past few weeks reading works from authors all over the globe.

But I can’t take credit for this outcome — it was not by design, and I don’t even remember where I heard about some of these titles. I am, however, going to make it an intentional practice moving forward, focused more on ‘voice and viewpoint’ criteria versus author citizenship.

Interested in diversifying your reading list as well? My library account now has on hold several of these 10+ books about racism and the black experience in America, and I’m looking up these books Brian shared with me on how to talk about race and brush up on history and important black figures. I’m also checking out A Year of Reading the World and my personal copies of Book Lust to Go and Novel Destinations for recommendations by authors from countries all over the world and on topics from regions across the U.S. and U.K. I’d love your recommendations as well.

With some trepidation, I went to the bookcase in our guest bedroom to assess what books I have on hand and can immediately start reading while my library books become available. The first shelf was prime for the picking — some of those titles are featured in the photo earlier in this post. Clearly there’s no reason why I can’t start on this journey today.

As I originally set out to share, here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been reading during COVID-19 and my very brief reflections in case they are of interest or inspiration to you.

What I’m Reading During COVID-19 Quarantine

The Windup Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Country: Japan
Reflections: Before our trip to Japan last fall, I downloaded several books on my Kindle by Japanese authors. I have to admit, this one was not my favorite — I really struggled with the pace and whimsy. Because of that, I don’t necessarily recommend this title, but I DO recommend The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, which I read pre-COVID-19.

Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography by Richard Branson
Country: United Kingdom
Reflections: I love the Virgin brand and Richard Branson’s story, which I initially learned about reading his first book, Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way last year. If you’re interested in how Virgin continues to make a difference in every country and community it touches while driving economic prosperity in those places, I definitely recommend this read.

Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
Country: Israel
Reflections: I was blown away when I read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and thrilled to find that I enjoyed Homo Deus as much if not more. Reading about Harari’s reflections on how society has (nearly) overcome age-old catastrophe’s such as plague, famine, and war in context of our world in 2020 gave me lots and lots to ponder.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Reflections: I have no idea where I came across this book, but I flew through the pages and escaped into the drama of several people and families coming together at a retreat in the Australian outback to work through their personal issues. At times dark, at times funny.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Country: USA, Georgia
Reflections: There is a reason everyone you know is reading this book. Set in the marshes of North Carolina, it follows the coming-of-age story of a girl born into poverty who survives through her intimate connections with nature and despite being outcast from society. Bonus elements of murder mystery, love affairs, and family dynamics.

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
Country: USA, Virginia/D.C. area
Reflections: Discussed in this blog post.

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