9 Best Books for Quarantine or Pandemic

Last Updated:  March 29, 2020

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Know someone who’s spending a lot more time at home than usual? Perhaps it’s you. In honor of the countless souls before us who passed their time in quarantine quietly and calmly, here are our picks for the best books for quarantine during the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s hope it’s a short stay!

The List: 9 Best Books for Quarantine

1. Quarantine: A Novel by Jim Crace

There’s no more logical place to begin this list than with a book as aptly titled as Quarantine. There’s no plague. There’s no pandemic. This is quarantine by choice. In the desert. A very long time ago. Perhaps you too can flip the subtle switch in your mind and come to understand your current predicament as a choice rather than an imposition. It just might change everything.

2. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

No fewer than six cholera pandemics occurred more or less continuously between 1816 and 1923, killing more than 50 million people. Marquez deftly wraps a classic love story around the plague and sprinkles it with the gleaming dust of magical realism. Eventually, it’s impossible to discern who’s sick and who’s hopelessly in love. Does it matter anyways? Is there any difference?

3. How to Live: A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell

It’s a testament to Montaigne’s keen powers of observation and knack for living intentionally long before it was cool, that Montaigne is still highly relevant more than 400 years after his death. Given the circumstances, it’s likely you’ll eventually forgive yourself for sitting around playing Candy Crush all day, but why take the chance? Get this most excellent of books instead and let the self improvement begin!

4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Convicted by the Bolsheviks for the high crime of poetry, Count Rostov is summarily sentenced to spend the rest of his days within the walls of The Metropol hotel. Rostov’s character puts on a master class in how to bring the world to your doorstep, without ever setting foot in the street. Imaginative, clever, and surprising at every turn, A Gentleman in Moscow gives “sheltering in place” a whole new shine.

5. The Shining by Stephen King

Look, it could be worse. Imagine you’re stuck not at home with your family all day, but in a remote snowed-in hotel with only the Torrance family to keep you company. For Stephen King, isolation breeds imagination. You’ve surely seen the movie, but as usual, the book is far more terrifying.

6. The Ghost Map by Stephen Johnson

Sherlock Holmes meets modern medicine in this true tale of life in London during the cholera epidemic of 1854. Tracking down the source of the rapidly spreading infection was no easy task in Victorian England. Science was still mostly a dark art and it was the poor who bore the brunt of the epidemic. Dr John Snow figured it out anyways.

7.  The Great Influenza by John Barry

There’s no better way to understand the tension that plays out when science, politics, and the truth collide, than this 500+ page treatise on the flu epidemic of 1918. Despite the persistent lies and callous indifference shown by all levels of the US government, science ultimately prevailed. Whether or not Mark Twain actually said it, it’s still true that, “History never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.”

8. Being Dead by Jim Crace

The sad fact of a pandemic is that contemplating the prospect of your own death becomes nearly unavoidable. With each news report and scary anecdote, the possibility nuzzles up a bit closer. Tackle your greatest fear head on with this short and utterly unique novel about life, death, and the six long days that follow.

9. The Swiss Family Robinson by Jean Wyss

Shipwrecked on a deserted island with precious little hope of ever being discovered, the Robinson family makes a go of it anyways. It’s soon obvious that, with the right attitude, an isolated family’s inner world can be as rich and adventurous as life in a big city. Can yours be the same?