Submitted by Mark Woodard

Times are difficult for everyone right now and – even worse – many of us are forced to isolate, just when the power of community could truly help us get through this challenge.

One way to experience community during times of isolation is reading. Reading can challenge, provoke, soothe and even heal. Below is a list of reading (or listening) suggestions that provide a sense of joy and strength and maybe some comfort as we face the unknown together.

FICTION Getting lost in a good book is more important than ever. Here are some fiction titles that will grab you and help you realize that we are capable of overcoming even the most difficult of situations.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A story about a community’s struggle for empathy, compassion and acceptance.

The Good Thief by Markus Zusak
An unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A beguiling story about cunning, shared survival and resilience.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A thoughtful reflection on loss, love and rebirth, featuring a quirky and loveable curmudgeon.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Classic story of a young girl’s perseverance through difficult times and a near hopeless future.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
In post 9/11 New York, a young boy finds solace in humanity.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and how love or even the memory of love, is often the key to survival.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The triumph of love and family over – yes – pride and prejudice, in one of the great love stories ever written.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
An inspiring classic about self-discovery and following your dreams.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A story of survival, self-invention and the enormous power of art.

PLAYS (yes, theatre!)
Seeing a live play now is pretty much impossible – but maybe experiencing one is not. While Broadway and local and regional theatres are shuttered, there is a unique way to experience excellent drama in your own home. This outside-the-box idea is from New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley and you can read all about it in detail here:

The gist of the article is – why not get the family together and read a play out loud in the living room? Some of the best literature in the world is written in play form and it will bring out the actor in you. The article suggestions include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee, Our Town by Thornton Wilder and The Piano Lesson by August Wilson. Don’t forget Shakespeare, especially a comedy like A Midsummer Night’s Dream or even a good juicy tragedy like Macbeth – heavy, yes, but immensely readable. So set the stage for this unique way to get reading back into your family’s life.

Some reading is just too good to pass up when you want to lose yourself in another world. Mystery, humor, adventure, fantasy… All the authors below will provide you with a good read and a respite from the current drama of daily life.

Jane Austin Charm and romance from the 19th century that hasn’t aged a bit. Try Emma, Pride and Prejudice, or Sense & Sensibility.
Janet Evanovich The riotous mystery series featuring New Jersey’s own Stephanie Plum. You can start with the first book, One for the Money, or just dive in anywhere you like. The latest is Twisted Twenty-six.
John Le Carré Spy novels at their best. Start with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
David Sedaris Quirky essays that explore the humor and absurdity of everyday life. Barrel Fever or Naked provide the most fun.
J.R.R. Tolkien The king of fantasy will keep you spellbound for days with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring trilogy.

If you prefer to read about real life people overcoming hardships, these are some of the best:
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Finally, some hearty readers may want to luxuriate in the genre of “pandemic” reading. We invite you to try:

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
Pandemic by Robin Cook
The Plague by Albert Camus

Let us know what “comfort food” reading is for you. And whether it’s for adventure, solace or inspiration, Happy Reading!