42 Books to Help You Get Through the Rest of Quarantine, Chosen by Boston Booksellers

Month one million of the pandemic got you in a reading rut? Try cozying up with some quirky science fiction, a royal romance, or a feminist retelling of The Illiad.

woman reading stack of books

Image via Getty/JGI/Tom Grill

It’s been nearly a year since the COVID pandemic shut down the city. It’s cold and nasty out. You’ve driven the scenic drives, you’ve memorized your at-home workout videos, and you’ve played more Zoom Scattergories than any person should in one lifetime. How do you shake up your daily routine of watching bad TV, Googling Massachusetts’ vaccine plan again, and contemplating your next takeout meal? Allow me to reintroduce you to: Books.

If you’re like me, you may have set your literary sights high at the beginning of the pandemic, vowing to take advantage of your compulsory solitude and finally dive into War and Peace, Ulysses, or that novel you bought on a whim because it had a cool cover (back when casually browsing and touching stuff in a bookstore was still a normal thing to do). If you (again, like me) have since put those bookish dreams on hold in favor of activities such as staring unblinking out the window, screaming into the void, or watching Bridgerton in a catatonic state, let this be your sign—it’s time to try reading again. Below, browse 42 recommendations from local booksellers: Whether you’re looking for a shiny new release, a book of thoughtful love poems, or a science fiction novel featuring an intergalactic singing competition, there’s something for everyone here.


At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman
“In a year fraught with hardship, Katharine Seligman’s new novel hammers home how fortunate we really are. Homelessness is endemic in the U.S., both ubiquitous and hidden—invisible in plain sight. Seligman takes us into that world with compassion, depth, humor, and hopefulness.” -Melissa Sagendorph, Harvard Book Store

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (on sale 2/9)
“This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. When she was 17 years old, Martha had a metaphorical bomb go off in her head. Since then, she’s had an extremely difficult time being a person. Sorrow and Bliss is full of laugh-out-loud dark humor, hard truths, intensely human characters, sharp prose, and a story that will stick with you. I know it has for me.” -Hannah Zimmerman, Trident Booksellers

Super Host by Kate Russo (on sale 2/9)
Super Host introduces its reader to Bennett, a painter who is renting out his home to make ends meet (while he lives in his artist studio, a shed in the backyard). Russo evokes a grand mixture of pathos and potential—the oil paint and turpentine scents of an artist’s studio; the disappointments and pivots of middle age; and the unexpected mix-and-match social opportunities (some met, and some missed) that come with the online transactions that increasingly drive so many of our real-world interactions.” -Alex Meriwether, Harvard Book Store

The Lost Soul by Olga Tokarczuk, illustrated by Joanna Concejo (on sale 2/23)
“A collaboration between two masters, one a writer and the other an artist. It’s the story of a man who feels his life has lost meaning, and we follow his voyage through a mysterious and haunting inner world.” -Lydia McOscar, Brookline Booksmith

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (on sale 3/2)
“Exquisitely written and composed, this novel weaves the story of a family past and present as they face the consequences of immigrating from Colombia to the U.S. It explores the concept of home, belonging, and hope. Heartbreaking and profound, this is a must read.” -Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers

What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins (on sale 4/13)
“A powerful book that draws you in from the first sentence. What Comes After is a hopeful portrait of how new relationships can flourish even in times of tragedy, and how people can change and grow for the better after a great loss. This is one of those books that seeps into your consciousness and makes you think about the characters during the day as if they’re people you really know. Read this.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara (on sale 4/16)
“If you want a book that will hook you on page one, refuse to let you go for the rest of the day, and leave you laid out on the floor questioning everything you thought you knew, First, Become Ashes is the book for you. Szpara’s searing sophomore novel follows the dissolution of a cult, and all of the pain, confusion and trauma that entails.” (To that end, do heed the content warnings: Indoctrination, abuse, self-injury, pain infliction, graphic depictions of sexual abuse and assault) -Read Davidson, Harvard Book Store


Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
“Throughout 2020 I went back and forth between not being able to read at all, and wanting a book to sweep me away. Free Food for Millionaires, the first novel by Min Jin Lee, is the kind of incisive, immersive society novel familiar to fans of Dickens and Eliot, with a distinctly modern sensibility.” -Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

Rose Code by Kate Quinn (on sale 3/9)
“About three codebreakers from Bletchley Park who, years after the end of WWII, have to find a traitor who worked alongside them during the war.” -Abby Nissen, Brookline Booksmith

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (on sale 4/6)
“This remarkable novel tries to rectify a glaring oversight in the historical accounts of the first Oxford English Dictionary—the contributions of women. While many biographies have been written about Dr. James Murray and his team of lexicographers, The Dictionary of Lost Words is the first literary work to highlight the women behind the scenes, without whom the English language wouldn’t have evolved as fully and colorfully as it has.” -Melissa Sagendorph, Harvard Book Store


The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert
“Enjoying all those fun rom-coms Netflix has been putting out? Cherry and Rueben start off with major sparks, but the paparazzi see them, and it turns out he is an incognito prince! Cherry agrees to be his fake fiancee and you know how it goes—but Hibbert makes this all so fun while also tackling complex, tough issues.” -Jordan Barnes, Brookline Booksmith

The Duke Undone by Joanna Lowell (on sale 4/6)
“This book utterly absorbed me despite the turmoil of this past December. An independent art student encounters a duke completely nude and unconscious in an alley; shenanigans (and feelings) follow.” -Jordan Barnes, Brookline Booksmith


Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“Lean into this cold winter by cozying up with this utterly absorbing new book by Moreno-Garcia. You will be transported to a house of secrets, nightmares, and disturbances, all with a splash of glamour and intrepidness thanks to our heroine Noemi. You won’t want to leave home while you have this book.” -Jordan Barnes, Brookline Booksmith

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
“When the winter grows dark, and we huddle inside against the cold, what better to entertain and divert than a scary story? Native author Graham Jones brings us a slow-burning tale of pure dread to keep the doldrums at bay! Four friends from a Blackfeet reservation, now grown and scattered to the wind, reap the consequences of an elk hunt gone wrong. How many friends and relations will fall into the net woven with the broken threads of tradition? Part ghost story, part psychological horror, this book dug its hooks in early and refused to let go until the end.” -Geoffrey Raywood, Trident Booksellers

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
“Salacious, snarky, spine-chilling. Queer as all get-out. A satisfyingly delectable gothic yarn that’ll be the most fun you have all winter.” -Serena Longo, Harvard Book Store

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (on sale 8/3)
“A good ghost story knows that the living can haunt us as much as the dead. In this gripping debut, a teen’s disappearance draws two TV ghost hunters and their adopted daughter back to their rural, conservative hometown, where painful secrets and prejudices threaten to destroy them.” -Kiersten Frost, Brookline Booksmith


The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“There’s a sort of yearning endurance to the mildest New England winter, and this one has been fraught. My household has been reading aloud The Lord of the Rings and hitting repeatedly upon the highly original thought that it’s a very good book–its history and weight are imprinted in its rolling prose and its characters contain a collected intelligence that understands fear, but also understands what absolutely must be risked and fought for.” -Alex Schaffner, Brookline Booksmith

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi is a luminescent, dreamlike adventure, a book that will soothe your soul and transport you to a beautiful, strange world where you will want to linger, savoring every moment, every page.” -Serena Longo, Harvard Book Store

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
A Thousand Ships is a journey into the unexplored parts of the most famous Western epic ever told. Sorrowful, vengeful, and hopeful—this beautiful retelling of The Iliad illustrates the resilient heroism of women dealing with the bitter consequences of war.” -Maddie Collins, Harvard Book Store

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard (on sale 2/9)
“A fiercely post-colonial fantasy novella, this book was a jolt of energy this winter. Princess Thanh has recently returned from serving as a hostage in the Western nation of Ephteria, a role which ended in a mysterious magical fire, and has been thrust into leading negotiations with her former captives. Political wranglings, divided loyalties, and fiery romance drive this exceptional addition to de Bodard’s works.” -Sean Corning, Trident Booksellers

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon (on sale 6/1)
“Wyatt Croft was engaged to a fairy prince as a child. That was before he burned down a village, fled the kingdom, and came out as trans. Now, to his dismay, his betrothed is at his front door with bad news: Their wedding might be the only thing that can stop a fascist coup. For fans of Holly Black and Seanan McGuire, The Witch King is a smart, bold debut that combines the fantastic with social justice.” -Kiersten Frost, Brookline Booksmith


Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente
“A hilarious send-up of Eurovision/Idol contests, with the fate of planet Earth hanging in the balance. Total escapism with spectacular vocabulary, pathos, & great imagination. If you liked The Hitchhiker’s Guide or Rob Reid’s Year Zero…” -Richard Steinberger, Brookline Booksmith

Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández (on sale 3/16)
“This is a follow-up to her 2019 novella Space Invaders, and I hope it is as darkly beautiful, dreamlike, and revelatory as the first.” -Bonnie Atterstrom, Brookline Booksmith

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (on sale 4/27)
“I’m so incredibly excited for the new Murderbot book. I read this series in its entirety last year when I was having trouble getting into any book I picked up. Who knew a socially awkward robot could be so endearing? No problems getting into that series, and I have high hopes for the next installment.” -Abby Nissen, Brookline Booksmith


How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
“Each story in this collection is imbued with the fantastic. Each is beautiful. And each shares (either through example or omission) ways to do and be better. Whether read for escape, for pleasure, or for inspiration, these stories deliver.” -Michael Lemanski, Trident Booksellers

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
“This quirky & intimate collection of short stories looks at the world and the people who inhabit it with a tender wonder. The book surprises and delights, and each character is an infinitesimal—yet ever-expanding—universe to glimpse and explore.” -Bonnie Atterstrom, Brookline Booksmith

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
“These poems, at their heart, are love poems: odes to a lover, to a river, to a brother, to a culture, to the land. This collection looks at love in all its forms and from every angle, light reflecting and refracting from its facets in all its beauty and ugliness, in its ecstasy and in its grief.” -Bonnie Atterstrom, Brookline Booksmith

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
“I love to curl up in bed with short stories that can carry me somewhere new, and in this author’s writing the supernatural and mundane coexist with casual grace. Oyeyemi’s stories are cleverly woven together and full of intrigue and magic. In some ways I wish we lived in her fantastic world; in other ways I think we already do.” -Bonnie Atterstrom, Brookline Booksmith


Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous
“At a time when we’re physically apart and finding ways to nurture our relationships virtually, the story of the community built around an anonymous Twitter account is especially resonant. Duchess’s story is a balm for the quarantine soul.” -Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
“This book is full of the weird, the whimsical, and the wonderful. Find a new gal pal in Jenny Slate as she weaves together stories that are humorous, heartfelt, and bittersweet. This book is a perfect reminder that you are alive, that life is complicated, but there are still beautiful things.” -Bonnie Atterstrom, Brookline Booksmith

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
“Mowat was a biologist in the early 1950s who staked out wildlife on the Canadian tundra, and finds himself fascinated by the local wolf pack. I reread this every few years and it always has me howling with laughter (though I’ll probably never try the enclosed recipe for Mouse Soup).” -Lydia McOscar, Brookline Booksmith

A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein
“This is the single most distracting memoir I’ve ever read. You’d struggle to find someone who’s lived as many different lives as Kate Bornstein has. She’s been a kid in a large Jewish family, a member of Scientology’s Sea Org, an out-and-proud trans woman, a consensual sex slave in a triad relationship: you name it, she’s done it. If you want to read a memoir about a truly remarkable life story, paired with witty commentary and a humorous insight on life, A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a must-read.” -Emily McNeiece, Trident Booksellers

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe
“If only more biographies were like this one! Alexis Coe does a great job at bringing a different perspective and focus to key areas of the life of George Washington. She doesn’t shy away from Washington’s many flaws but also highlights his strengths. This new and fresh take on a man who has had countless books written about him is worth the read.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough (on sale 4/13)
“In this powerful, honest collection of personal essays, Hough shares her experiences of growing up as part of the abusive cult The Children of God, joining the Air Force and being forced out because she is a lesbian, and finally to her becoming comfortable with who she is. Hough’s direct, no bullshit manner will have you laughing and nodding your head in agreement. If you are a fan of memoir and books about moving through life overcoming any obstacle in your way or, if, like me, you love reading about strong queer people — then this book is for you!” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi (on sale 6/8)
“This book (out in June) will be a spiritual follow-up to Emezi’s novel Freshwater. Their writing is captivating, churning with depth & dark magic, and Dear Senthuran not only promises to be the same, but will offer us a peek into the writer who wields words with such supernatural finesse.” -Bonnie Atterstrom, Brookline Booksmith

The Way She Feels: My Life on the Borderline in Pictures and Pieces by Courtney Cook (on sale 6/29)
“This illustrated memoir details the intricacies of the author’s experience living with Borderline Personality Disorder. ​While memoirs of this nature are certainly very special for others dealing with BPD & other similar disorders, the colorful and real way in which Cook details her thoughts & experiences make it a wonderful read for anyone who has dealt with the extreme highs and lows of life.” -Caroline Manion, Brookline Booksmith


Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
“This is a heartwarming read and one that serves as an important reminder for us to invest in friendships. Adult friendship is something that often gets overlooked and undervalued in our society. Sow and Friedman do a wonderful job in this book using their personal journey of friendship along with academic research about how to navigate and support friendship.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
“A potent and electrifying critique of today’s feminist movement, Hood Feminism should be required reading for anyone who calls herself or himself a feminist. Kendall puts a focus on topics which are often disregarded, appropriated, or dismissed in mainstream (white) feminism. She doesn’t sugarcoat racism or sexism, but her bluntness is inspiring and bracing. It makes me want to meet this challenge every day and be a good ally and accomplice, to be a real feminist who cares about all women and what they need.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Olou
“A sociopolitical analysis that examines societal issues through a specific lens is the type of nonfiction I love. Oluo does a fantastic job of weaving together the seemingly disparate institutions in America and showing how ultimately entwined they are due to their upholding of white male supremacy with a conversational writing style backed up by facts and research. A great read that we should all force ourselves to read, digest, and act upon.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman (on sale 3/9)
“Author Jess Zimmerman takes us on a feminist journey, providing a roadmap for how we can shape the world around us by embracing ‘undesirable’ traits like hunger, anger, and ugliness. With her intimate and fierce writing, Zimmerman leverages the images we’re familiar with from literature and art (i.e. Medusa’s head with the snakes) and turns them into emblems to teach us of a new type of female hero: one that looks like a monster, but with all the agency and power to match.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America by Julie DiCaro (on sale 3/16)
“Covering everything from abusive online fandom at Barstool Sports to sexist treatment of Serena Williams and professional women’s teams fighting for equal pay and treatment, and looking back at pioneering women who took on patriarchy in sports media, Sidelined illuminates the ways sports presents a microcosm of life as a woman in America—and the power in fighting back.” -Christina Pascucci-Ciampa, All She Wrote Books

White Magic by Elissa Washuta (on sale 4/27)
“This collection of essays by Elissa Washuta, a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, merges details from her life and the complexities with which she has experienced love, addiction, magic, and spirituality. It all comes together into a study of her own identity as an Indigenous woman and witch, and a critique of the way white spiritualism and media continues to take from Indigenous cultures. Washuta’s approach challenges readers to see the familiar from a different perspective, which is something we all need a little more of.” -Caroline Manion, Brookline Booksmith

Ready to buy? Here’s the most up-to-date information about shopping at the stores featured here.

All She Wrote Books:
All She Wrote Books’ brick and mortar store located at Assembly Row (451 Artisan Way, Somerville, MA 02145) is now open for customer browsing by appointment during store hours. Store hours are Tuesday, Wednesday 12-6 p.m., Thursday thru Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sundays from 11-2 p.m.

Happen to be in the Assembly Row area and don’t have an appointment? That is okay, too! We can accommodate walk-ins depending on if there is enough time between your arrival at our store and when our next customer in-store appointment is. However, we strongly recommend always booking an appointment, so you are guaranteed the time in our store to safely browse our shelves.

In addition, customers can place orders through our online bookstore for mail delivery or free, contactless curbside pickup of book orders at the store during our normal store hours.

Brookline Booksmith:
Brookline Booksmith is currently open for in-store shopping (limited capacity, masks required). We also welcome online orders or purchases by phone for curbside pick-up and shipping.

Harvard Book Store:
Shop our shelves from home at harvard.com; we ship anywhere in the U.S. and offer curbside pickup services in Harvard Square. We are also open for in-store shopping. Our current hours of operation are 10am–6pm, daily. (Any updates or changes will be posted to harvard.com.) Please note that we are maintaining limited capacity for in-store shopping, a no-exceptions mask policy, and other safety protocols.

Trident Booksellers:
We’re open for in-store browsing 8am – 9pm, seven days a week. Our website is open 24/7 for online orders. Our restaurant is open for takeout and delivery. No indoor seating at this time.