reading lists

What to Read During Self-Quarantine, According to McNally Jackson Booksellers

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

One upside to our newfound downtime in this period of social distancing is that we all have more time to read. In better times, this would warrant a visit to a local bookstore like New York’s McNally Jackson. Like many small businesses, though, the bookstore was forced to close in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Fortunately, you can still buy their books online. In case you don’t already have a backlog of books in your queue, we asked owner Sarah McNally and her team to share their self-quarantine reading list. From fantasy and memoir to historical and literary fiction, their picks (described below) include plenty of options to entertain and distract you while you’re stuck at home or just in need of a good distraction.

Editors’ note: Due to the economic strain of the outbreak, nearly 80 employees were recently laid off, temporarily, until McNally Jackson’s three locations reopen. In the meantime, a fund has been established to support their living costs. If you’d like contribute, click here.

“Like Joan Didion or Renata Adler, Ben Lerner or Sally Rooney, Anna Wiener writes with dead-on specificity, scalpel-sharp analysis, deep sensitivity, and an eye for the absurd. She headed west into the modern gold rush that is the tech boom and now returns with gleaming ingots of insight, telling tales of a strange land where boy-CEOs ride ripsticks and hoover up your data.” — Sam MacLaughlin

“Before COVID-19, the title of Jenny Odell’s wise primer for disengaging from our devices was a little funny. Now it seems crucially instructive. Thankfully, the book’s also, sneakily, an eagle-eyed look at how its readers can make a big difference in their communities.” — John Francisconi

“At a time when anti-Asian American sentiment is rising — proof again that the idea of the ‘model minority’ as bestowed by white people is always contingent — this is a brave and raw and penetrating reckoning on the meaning of Asian-American identity … or at least one Asian-American’s identity.” — Sarah McNally

“This is history just different enough from our current upheaval to offer escape, yet familiar enough to rally hope.” — Allison Glasgow

“You can read this tragicomic novel of the Thirty Years’ War in a day, but it feels like a huge book. It’s witty down to the bottom — there’s wit in the concept and in every word of its execution, but it is also sad and very beautiful. It resonates through character, history, philosophy, religion, war, famine, and the history of science.” — McNally

“So good — fierce and fiery, fueled by rage, by sympathy, by sadness traveling across centuries. It’ll make you want to be turned into a tree in order to be pulped to print more copies of Wake, Siren. Also: It’s by my sister.” — MacLaughlin

“This novella takes place over a week in Northumberland and is narrated by a 17-year-old girl. Her family joins a professor and three students to live off the land in a rough approximation of the Britons of the Iron Age. The tension builds, undercurrents of abuse rise ever closer to the surface. It’s a little funny and very sad, and it transports the reader to the British bogs and beaches and to the life of hunting and gathering.” — McNally

“‘The world ends … for the last time,’ and that’s just the start of this harrowing, three-time Hugo Award–winning fantasy trilogy — which excavates with unparalleled nuance the oppressions that humanity wages on the Earth — and ourselves — and how the Earth might just not stand for it much longer.” — Tom Oristaglio

“Extraordinarily funny, devastatingly clever, and not the kind that’s annoying — the kind that makes you think, ‘Wow! This funny, clever person exists in the world, and if I can’t hang out with her, I might as well read everything she’s ever written.’” — Bekah Shaughnessy

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What to Read During Self-Quarantine