Life under lockdown: Recommended books

Books for the housebound
Books for the housebound 02:21

By Washington Post book critic Ron Charles:

Everybody is anxious about how the coronavirus is affecting our friends and loved ones. But we also need balance in our lives, particularly in stressful times like these.

Fortunately, this year has already given us a number of great books that can help entertain you, transport you – maybe even inspire you.

Ecco Press

"Separation Anxiety" by Laura Zigman

"Separation Anxiety" is a comic novel by Laura Zigman. The narrator is a 50-year-old woman who just can't take it anymore: Her career has evaporated, her marriage is over – but her husband can't afford to move out, which makes for a really awkward home life. 

One day, while pining for the good old days, she puts on a baby sling, then sees the family dog, picks her up and puts it in it. Pretty soon, she can't imagine why everyone isn't wearing a dog!

"Separation Anxiety" by Laura Zigman (Ecco Press), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio Formats, available via Amazon


"Deacon King Kong" by James McBride

James McBride wrote a beloved memoir called "The Color of Water" in 1995, and he won a National Book Award in 2013 for "The Good Lord Bird," so everybody's been eager for his new novel, "Deacon King Kong."

This is a funny, deeply moving story packed full of big characters in a Brooklyn-area housing project in 1969. It starts when an old deacon of the local church shoots a legendary drug dealer. He doesn't kill him, but he definitely starts something. Told in McBride's exuberant prose, the story embraces the whole spectrum of America.  

"Deacon King Kong" by James McBride (Riverhead Books), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio Formats, available via Amazon


"The Night Watchman" by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich has written more than a dozen books about Native Americans, including "The Round House," which won a National Book Award. Her new novel, "The Night Watchman," is a story inspired by the life of her grandfather. He was a leader of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe in the 1950s when the U.S. Congress tried to cancel its treaties with Native Americans and terminate the rights of Indian tribes. 

In this powerful novel, Erdrich describes how one man fought back and helped save his community. 

"The Night Watchman" by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins), in Hardcover, Large Print, eBook and Audio Formats, available via Amazon

Crown Publishing

"The Splendid and the Vile" by Erik Larson

Armchair historians will enjoy the latest book by Erik Larson. Larson captured the nation's imagination almost 20 years ago when he published "The Devil in the White City" about an infamous serial killer during the Chicago World's Fair. 

His new book, "The Splendid and the Vile," is about Winston Churchill during a single year of World War II when Hitler came close to breaking England. 

Larson tells the big story of the war while also exploring the personal details of Churchill's life and his family.

"The Splendid and the Vile" by Erik Larson (Crown), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio Formats, available via Amazon

Also recommended: 


"Writers and Lovers" by Lily King

Lily King's new book, "Writers and Lovers," is one of the most delightful novels I've read in a long time. 

It's about a young woman in Boston who refuses to give up her dream of being a writer and meeting somebody to share her life. 

But just when she feels like she'll never find success or love, she lands in the middle of a romantic plot involving two very different men.

"Writers and Lovers" by Lily King (Grove Press), in Hardcover and eBook Formats, available via Amazon


"Uncanny Valley" by Anna Wiener

"Uncanny Valley" is a memoir by Anna Wiener about her experience working in Silicon Valley. 

She entered a world of highly-compensated egomaniacs who make ridiculously-inflated claims about their work without considering its effects on society. 

It's a dispiriting, sometimes shocking study of the high-tech industry that's rapidly reshaping our lives in ways we aren't even aware of.  

"Uncanny Valley: A Memoir" by Anna Wiener (MCD), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio Formats, available via Amazon

Finally, a special plea:

Remember that a lot of bookstores have closed their doors this week to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, but many of those stores are still taking orders by phone or online, and they'd be happy to help you get a copy of one of these books, or recommend something else you might enjoy.

For more info:

Story produced by Julie Kracov. Editor: Chad Cardin.

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