Shop Small: Books To Read During Quarantine

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I am always a big advocate of shopping small and supporting local businesses, but especially during this COVID-19 pandemic where businesses have been forced to close their doors to the public. During these uncertain times, we must rally together to support our local favorite coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants as much as we can. Today, I want to talk about supporting your local book stores! It’s not surprising that with a bit of extra time on our hands that we are turning to books and Netflix to entertain ourselves, but I want to implore you to remember your local book stores when purchasing your quarantine reads. They need our help just as much as any other local business during this unprecedented time of the Coronavirus outbreak. With that being said, my friend, Sara offered to share a few book suggestions to read during quarantine!

Sara Verdi is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio, now based in NYC. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London. You can often find her in transit—exploring a new location with a camera and a good book in hand. Here are her book recommendations:

1. Normal People – Sally Rooney

If you’re dying for a romance novel that isn’t sappy or overdone, Normal People is the one for you. This novel is open and sincere and questions what it really means to be ‘normal.’

Normal People follows two main characters, Connell and Marie, from adolescence into early adulthood. Connell is a popular high school athlete and Marie is a quiet, bookish wallflower. Naturally, they fall in love. Classic, right? For just about anyone, this transitional stage of life is fraught with newness–new emotions, experiences, relationships–and Rooney’s novel offers an intimate glimpse into how Connell and Marie navigate love, loss, and growing up. With her spare yet razor-sharp prose, Rooney manifests the ineffable attraction between Connell and Marie and the lengths they will go to protect one another. 

This book hurt…in all the right ways. Rooney has mastered the subtle art of crafting a narrative that punches you in the gut yet apologizes while doing so. From the get-go, I was invested in the characters. I wanted to see them be well, to succeed, in both their lives and their relationship with one another. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of relationships that I have fostered throughout my own life–sometimes things go awry because of personal differences and other times it’s due to external influences.

 In young adulthood, those influences are often peer pressure or social expectation, and Rooney criticizes the need for constant approval in increasingly connected times. For example, in the novel, it is painful yet familiar to watch Connell and Marie’s relationship struggle for fear of how it appears to others. Rooney dares us to challenge the reverence of image in the face of genuine love for others.

All of this is to say that there are tinges of Connell and Marie’s relationship that we all have been acquainted with at some time or another, and Rooney exposes them in an alluring, human way. If you’re looking for a modern love story that isn’t afraid to be honest or painful, this quarantine read is for you. It’s simple yet powerful prose will allow you to breeze through it in an evening or two. And you’re just in luck! Hulu has released Normal People as a drama series streaming April 29th–perfect timing for some quarantine binging!

2. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – Dan Harris

In stressful situations, much like the one many of us find ourselves in with this pandemic, it can be difficult to remain grounded. Each day is filled with new personal anxieties and panic-inducing headlines, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the what-if’s or worst case scenario thinking. When you’re already constantly reminding yourself to ‘breathe’ or ‘relax,’ the last thing that you’d want to do is crack-open a self-help book (because self-help books never really help anyway, right?) 10% Happier isn’t exactly a self-help book, but there are certainly things you can pull from it to help abate your anxieties.

In this book, Dan Harris, an NBC anchor and news correspondent, details his personal journey with anxiety and how he managed to calm his ever-present, nagging fears. Harris suffered from a panic attack on national television which spurred his explorations into meditation as an anxiety-management practice. Harris gives a very personal account of his doubts surrounding the practice of meditation, for example the religious or mystical attitudes that cloud the benefits of it, and he makes a pretty compelling case for taking a few moments a day to just be present with yourself.

Harris has one practice in particular that I have found to be helpful over time. When obtrusive or worst-case scenario thoughts pop into our heads, Harris urges us to “welcome them to the party.” Rather than frantically trying to push the thought from our heads or obsess over it, Harris believes that simply addressing the thought, giving it a name, and acknowledging it helps us to think about that thought or concern more rationally. This, very much like meditation, requires practice, and 10% Happier shows us that you don’t need to be a monk to master these coping methods.

If you’re a podcast person, Harris has also launched a podcast of the same title. On this podcast, Harris interviews celebrities and influential people about their struggles with anxiety and depression. He’s also launched a Coronavirus Sanity Guide full of resources to help you keep your cool during these worrying times!

3. Your Favorite Children’s Book

Now, more than ever, we could all use a healthy dose of imagination and magic. And that’s the beauty of children’s books–they’re unapologetically funny, whimsical, and, probably more than anything, wonderfully nostalgic. Returning to your favorite children’s book at this age can be full of wonderful little surprises, for example, forgotten details or jokes, brilliantly brave characters, and, not to mention, ILLUSTRATIONS. If you’re quarantined at your parents’ place, dig through your shelves for those books, and get reacquainted with your favorite stories. Who knows, maybe you can reverse the roles and read your parents a bed-time story.

TIME Magazine has put together a list of the 100 Best Children’s Books here. Take a look to jog your memory or induce that sweet nostalgia. Some of my personal favorites: Ferdinand the Bull, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Love You Forever, and just about anything by Shel Silverstein.

If you want a little more action and plot than a picture book, why not crack into your favorite YA titles (Harry Potter anyone??) These novels can offer an escape into different worlds and, more personally, cherished memories.

4. Salt Fat Acid Heat – Samin Nosrat

Now that we all actually have time on our hands to cook something up for breakfast/lunch/dinner, what’s stopping you from sharpening your skills in the kitchen? I know that those instant Ramen noodles and Kraft Mac & Cheese are tempting, but there’s so much more to good cooking than the allure of convenience. In Salt Fat Acid Heat, Nosrat illustrates how mastering the use of four elements (you guessed it: salt, fat, acid, and heat) will lead to success in the kitchen.

What’s great about Salt Fat Acid Heat is that it is more than just a traditional cookbook. While flipping through recipes and looking at beautifully staged food photos is half the fun, when it comes to actually throwing the dish together, the instructions are typically sparse and sometimes unclear. Salt Fat Acid Heat will not only teach you how to prepare these simple and delicious dishes, it will also show you how and why the ingredients work together to give the dish its flavor and body. It goes beyond the boundaries of a normal cookbook to give you gentle guidance and encouragement in the kitchen.

Nosrat explains how and why you shouldn’t salt seafood more than 15 minutes ahead of cooking, why you should stay away from bottled lime juice, why using a bread knife to cut tomatoes is the way to go, and so much more in Salt Fat Acid Heat. Each recipe is like a science experiment–but without the complicated language and lab coats. If you’re looking for a cookbook that reads like a story and educates like your favorite teacher, I think you’ve found a winner in this one.

If you’re more of a visual learner, you’re in luck. Salt Fat Acid Heat has been adapted into a Netflix Series. But trust me, you’re gonna want the book–it’ll be your kitchen go-to manual!

5. Where to Begin – Cleo Wade

Have you always wanted to delve into poetry but can’t shake the feeling that you’ll be forced to dissect every poem like you did in your high school English class? Poetry doesn’t have to be intimidating or inaccessible, and Cleo Wade proves exactly that in Where to Begin.

Where to Begin
is a combination of thoughts, mantras, and poetry that Wade turns to when she feels like she is “losing it” (and aren’t we all losing it a little right now?) Wade says of her book, “The words in this book are what stop me from walking away from the problems of the world during tough times. They also help me stay connected to hope during difficult moments and remind me that even on the days that feel the most daunting, I still have the power to show up and do something, somewhere, in some way.”

Poetry has always been a connective practice. Whether that be a connection to self or our surroundings, Wade does an outstanding job of helping us find beauty and grounding within her poems. Her words feel like a hug from your best friend and will keep you chasing hope in these particularly uncertain times.

Thank you, Sara, for writing up these super enticing synopses for us! I don’t know about you guys, but I now want to read every single one of these books now. I also love that she has given us titles that coincide with Television series’ or podcasts to listen to. When I read, or watch something, I love to go down the rabbit hole of videos and websites dedicated to the title I have just finished. I usually don’t want the story to end so that I can stay in that little bubble for a little while longer. Click here to see a post I wrote after being inspired by one of Sara Verdi’s beautiful poems.

Laurel’s Book Suggestion

In an Instagram post that I shared the other day, I wrote down some of my goals for the coming week to give myself a little bit of accountability to get things done. One of those goals was to read more (isn’t it always?), and this is just the inspiration that I needed to get started!

I am currently a few chapters into Atomic Habits by James Clear and I’m liking it very much so far. It is fascinating to learn more about how our minds work as we form new habits and try to break bad ones that hold us back. James Clear shares the idea that by improving our habits by 1% each day, the small improvements will compound into amazing results that actually stick around. I’m looking forward to continuing this book and challenging myself to actually do the daily work it takes to improve.

Book Suggestions (with links to small, independent bookstores!)

Please leave me a comment below and let me know what your favorite quarantine reads have been!

Read More…

If you are looking for some other quarantine activities to pass the time then check out my recent post, Free Things To Do At Home During The COVID-19 Quarantine for some inspiration. Or if you want more “Shop Small” inspo, take a look at my most recent blog post, Shop Small: Cozy Quarantine Loungewear.


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  • Heather

    Love this! I’m not sure why, but I went into this hoping to read more but I just haven’t been able to do it! I think the book I’m reading just isn’t doing it for me and I need something to really get lost in. I’ll check out your list!

    May 5, 2020 at 12:36 pm Reply
    • laurelstravels

      Yes, same here! I always have the best intentions to read more and usually fail! Maybe we both need to read more interesting things, haha!

      June 13, 2020 at 9:35 pm Reply
  • Sarah

    I am ever so slowly making my way through The Woman In The Window which is starting to actually get good, but now I want to check out Atomic Habits! That might be my next one.

    May 8, 2020 at 9:25 am Reply
    • laurelstravels

      I put Atomic Habits down for a couple of weeks but I plan to pick it back up this week!!

      June 13, 2020 at 9:34 pm Reply

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