Alexander Chee$15.99 $14.71
I know lots of people are trying to write these days—writers who are trying to stay motivated on old projects or start new ones, and folks new to writing who are looking for ways to work out their complicated feelings of the moment. This collection of essays could slightly mislead with the title-- it's not all about writing. It's also about love, loss, family, activism, money, growing rosebushes... lots of things. But it also is about writing and it's truly splendid.
Haruki Murakami$16.00 $14.72
In my view, running is one of the best things we have available to us right now when you calculate the ratio of "how much joy and sense of freedom it can bring" versus "how socially dangerous it is or likely to get you stopped by the police." If you can find a place where you can keep your distance from people, the endorphin high is everything. It's free anti-coronavirus-sadness drugs that your body makes by itself. If you love Murakami and/or running and people have been asking you for years if you've read this book, now is the time to go ahead and read it.
Adrienne Maree Brown$16.00 $14.72
Another thing people are doing right now that I think is important is organizing for mutual aid, thinking critically about how we can fix all the broken things about our world that have magnified the harm of this pandemic-- things like incarceration and uneven access to quality, affordable health care. This book doesn't proclaim to have the answers, but it poses a lot of good questions and will give you plenty of things to ponder aloud while you eat dinner with your quaranteam.
Ross Gay$23.95 $22.03
Ross is such a wonderful human, and since reading this book I have often challenged myself to find delight in moments when I feel really down, which have been coming more often these days. As you'll read in the book, "delight" is actually a pretty complicated idea, and the book is never saccharine or naive.
Octavia E. Butler$16.99 $15.63
Okay, I have mixed feelings about recommending this right now, because it will freak you out. Everyone I know who reads Parable of the Sower is weirded out by how much of our current reality Octavia Butler predicted in this Afrofuturist classic, and it will turn you into sort of a prepper, which under usual circumstances might be helpful and great but might just be a source of stress. If you're the kind of person who said "golly, I think I'll watch Contagion for no reason" during the first week of social distancing, or if you've read it before and want to revisit it, go ahead and read this book. If not, maybe wait until... December?
Celeste Ng$17.00 $15.64
If you've finished Tiger King (I haven't yet... I can only handle so much, and I'm watching Westworld right now and baking and trying to pretend to be a normal human) and you've moved on to binging the Hulu series based on this novel, I hope you've read the novel. If you're not watching the show, read the novel anyway.
Patricia Smith$16.00 $14.72
One of the best things I have done in the last month is listen to the Floodlines podcast from The Atlantic. It's about Hurricane Katrina, which I realize may be a difficult thing to think about and hear about right now, but I was surprised that it didn't depress me so much as make me think critically about disaster management and what that means, in really helpful ways. It also made me think about Blood Dazzler, Patricia Smith's incredible collection that is also about Katrina, and about the ways that politicians and media can fail the vulnerable during times of crisis.
Black History Month was not great this year, and Women's History Month was sort of a wash, but by hook or by crook I insist that we make some effort to salvage National Poetry Month. This is an incredible new collection of work by Latine poets, some OGs as well as some emerging voices you may not have heard of. It just came out and it's really hard to be launching new books right now, so please support!
Samin Nosrat and Wendy Macnaughton$37.50 $34.50
Are you cooking and baking all the time? I sure am. I've noticed that a lot of people who don't consider themselves experienced in the kitchen are trying new things, which is awesome! Samin Nosrat's now-classic book is great because it's not a cookbook. It teaches you some really great fundamentals about how and why food works that will keep you from being glued to a recipe and will instead help you adapt to whatever ingredients you have and learn how to make something delicious.
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons$24.99 $22.99
Did you watch Watchmen on HBO this past fall? If not, are you aware that you missed what I believe to be one of the single greatest episodes of television ever created?! You can watch the show without having read the graphic novel, but having read the graphic novel definitely amplifies the experience (although it won't help with your sense of extreme confusion in the beginning of the series). The show only has 9 episodes. Read the graphic novel, and watch the show, and thank me later.