April 10, 2020

Reading in a pandemic: Part 2

Recently, Autumn Winters shared some reading and searching suggestions, providing brave readers with some ways to find fictional books about apocalypses and disasters, as well as providing some suggestions for finding other kinds of fiction if you (or your readers) want to avoid things that are too distressing. 

But what about nonfiction? As we find ourselves scouring news sites for updates (or avoiding them for our own mental health), some readers might take comfort in learning more about this kind of disease, what’s happened in the past, and comparing hypothetical prognoses of what might happen with what we now see unfolding before us.  

In 2012, David Quammen published Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. I was fascinated and disturbed at the time by his exploration of animal-borne diseases jumping to human hosts, which now reads a little like a lost prophecy. As much of our thinking is racing toward how long the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 might take, readers might find it interesting to read Meredith Wadman’s The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease, which explores the less-than-immaculate history of how the first polio, rabies, and rubella vaccines were developed. 

Other readers may find consolation in exploring the gentler side of nature. With many of our indoor activities canceled, we might turn to observing spring emerge in the world around us. Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees asks us to consider non-human forms of communication (pair this with The Overstory by Richard Powers to really challenge your preconceptions!) Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness offers a meditation on the crow and how it has adapted to modern life. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative offers an optimistic prescription for using the natural world to strengthen our capacities for joy and resilience. 

The above are just a few of the books on my personal shelf. To help you explore more possibilities, we’ve added Recommended Reads lists labeled “Reading During Pandemic” to NoveList. These are on the left-hand side of the home screen in NoveList and include selections at each reading level — lists of “Quarantine Reads,” if you will. The selections for younger readers generally keep to lighter themes, the choices for adults and teens range across moods — from exploring pandemic fiction and nonfiction to romantic comedies and feel-good fiction.  

Stay safe and healthy, and if you have a moment, let us know what you are reading during this strange time. 

Victoria Caplinger Fredrick is the Director of Book Discovery at NoveList. She is currently reading Perdid Street Station by China Mieville. 


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