Between following the news, scrolling through Instagram, and working on your computer, you’re probably racking up the screen time during quarantine. When you’re ready for a break and want to settle in with a good old-fashioned book, we’ve you covered.
We chatted with Hudson Valley bookstore owners and employees to get their top book recommendations for quarantine.
Oblong Books is offering online ordering and free shipping. They are also selling $50 and $100 mystery book bundles.
1. Enter the Aardvark
I'd pick Enter the Aardvark by Jessica Anthony, which went on sale last week. This hilarious story starts with an up-and-coming (closeted gay) young Republican congressman discovering a taxidermied aardvark on his front stoop. How did it get there? Why? Jessica Anthony weaves this tale along with the story of the taxidermist who stuffed the aardvark in Victorian England. This book is so smart and funny—it's my top recommendation for reading during quarantine! One of my favorite novels of 2020 so far!
—Suzanna Herman, Oblong Books & Music
Half Moon Books
Half Moon Books is accepting payment for books over Venmo and Paypal, offering free local delivery, or charging a small shipping fee for farther destinations. The shop is also on AbeBooks, eBay, and Amazon.
2. A Tale of Two Cities
I don't usually re-read books, there is too much I've yet to read, but right now I am revisiting A Tale of Two Cities. I think this is a great time to tackle a classic because for some people the language requires a little more concentration. You find yourself exerting forgotten mental muscles when you are no longer quite fluent with 19th-century writers.
3. Essays OneI'm also reading Lydia Davis's essays about writing, which, in a way, are as much about reading. I'm kinda always falling in love with reading!
—Jessica Dupont, Half Moon Books
Magpie Books, which specializes in "nearly new" books in Catskill, is offering curbside pickup as well as domestic media mail shipping. They are posting book bundles daily on their Instagram page.
4. The Year of Magical Thinking
This Joan Didion classic is a transcendent memoir about life and death and human resiliency. We are all so much stronger than we think.
—Kristi Gibson, Magpie Books
Postmark Books, a florist/bookstore combo in Rosendale, offers online ordering available with free national shipping.
5. Here for It
You're home alone, a little uneasy, and all you want is to hear from a funny, smart, compassionate, kind-hearted friend who always knows just the right thing to say. Open Here for It to any chapter, and that's what you'll get! I've been following R. Eric Thomas ever since his blow-up Facebook post four years ago about Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau, and Enrique Peña Nieto (you know the one— and if you don't, you'll be glad once you look it up!). This comic memoir distills his life story with some of his best writing on love, art, community, and politics into a joyous celebration of all of the above and more. Reading this is like sitting down for cheesecake in the Golden Girls' kitchen. It came out just in the nick of time.
6. The Monster at the End of This Book
Let's all take a moment to reflect on the greatest book of all time. First published in 1971, this simple story by “Sesame Street” writer Jon Stone with kinetic, lived-in art by Michael Smollin was meant to introduce kids to the concept of finishing a book. But it's a masterpiece of plot and pacing, dovetailing with the main character's anxious personality traits as the reader, through the broken fourth wall, insists on bringing him closer to a feared monster waiting on the last page. It's been a cultural touchstone for three generations now (and counting!) for good reason, and it's perfect entertainment for a family at home together for a while. And spoiler alert: there really is a monster at the end!
7. Dear Edward
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano is a beautiful, heartbreaking coming-of-age story about a twelve-year-old “miracle boy.” Edward is the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 191 other passengers including his beloved parents and older brother. The novel is organized like Edward’s memories: “before the crash” and “after the crash.” It is years before Edward can conceive of a future for himself. He begins to heal only after discovering and answering letters from the families of the other crash victims. These letters reveal how Edward’s life is inextricably linked with everyone on the plane, and yet simultaneously his own. It is this realization that sets him free.
—Brittani O’Hearn, Barner Books
8. In Search of Lost Time
"Life is short and Proust is long" is an apocryphal quote attributed to Anatole France. In Search of Lost Time is indeed one of the longest novels ever published, a fact that makes it seem a forbidding undertaking. However, many of us now have more free hours than we ever anticipated. Proust himself knew a long solitude; his severe asthma led to isolation within a cork-lined room. In this solitude he wrote a massive Künstlerroman that crystallized his wisdom regarding memory, love, and art. He’s also hilarious and the plot is full of witty gossip. There are worse quarantine companions.
—James Frauenberger, Barner Books
9. Soul Storm
You don't so much read Clarise Lispector as immerse yourself in her closely observed worlds. This intense and enigmatic Brasilian writer examines the emotional minutiae of her characters seemingly unexceptional lives and like an alchemist seeks to conjure the extraordinary out of ordinary moments. Her searching, melancholy, and wildly poetic prose is somehow both brisk and lush. These small tales have a way of blossoming miraculously into sad, funny, and furious meditations on language, imagination, love, and death and the way we muddle through the little moments of a life, trying to explain the inexplicable.
—Katherine Spelling, Barner Books
Rough Draft Bar & BooksRough Draft in Kingston is taking book orders by email and will arrange delivery to anyone within a 30-minute radius of the shop (along with Counter Culture coffee beans and their signature DUB pies.) If you live further away, order online.
10. The Mirror and The Light
We're settling into The Mirror and the Light, the final entry in Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's right hand man and convenient historical villain. Mantel, whose first two Cromwell books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, each won the Man Booker Prize, brings us a more sympathetic version of Cromwell: a self-made man of the world who, for all of his very real faults, is the greatest political minds of his age—and just a darn fascinating person. It's maybe the most immersive, engrossing historical fiction you'll ever read—the kind that'll have you reading Wikipedia articles and listening to podcasts about the protagonist well into the night. For an extended quarantine, nothing beats reading this whole, 1700-page trilogy, and pairing it with the splendid 2015 miniseries on the BBC starring Mark Rylance.
—Amanda and Anthony, Rough Draft Bar & Books
The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook in Woodstock is selling and shipping books through its online store as well as offering free same-day delivery of anything currently in stock. Owner James Conrad is an avid fan and supporter of local authors. Below he offers up four of his book recommendations by Hudson Valley-based writers. The shop is taking orders and offering free home delivery, call (845) 679-8000 or visit their website.
11. If I Die Tonight
Alison Gaylin won the prestigious Edgar Award last year for her Hudson Valley based thriller If I Die Tonight, which chronicles the inter-connecting lives of a high school outcast and a faded pop star.”
12. A Three Dog Life
For some guidance and comfort in challenging circumstances, Abigail Thomas’ memoir A Three Dog Life relates her own experience caring for her husband after a tragic car accident.
13. The Yellow House: A Memoir
Offering similar lessons in how to pay attention and investigate a disaster as it unfolds around you, Sarah M. Broom’s National Book Award-winning The Yellow House documents her family’s struggles in the face of Hurricane Katrina in wise and poetic prose.
And finally, long before Richard Powers’s Overstory, Nina Shengold created a page-turning love triangle set among trees and logging in her thrilling novel Clearcut. So stay home and read a great local author’s book!—James Conrad, Golden Notebook