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A selection of the books Code Switch readers recommended recommended Natalie Escobar / NPR to turn off subtitles

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Natalie Escobar / NPR

A selection of Code Switch Readers books recommended

Natalie Escobar / NPR

A couple of weeks ago we shared some of the best books we read during the pandemic, but it was more of a cage game than a book club get-together. When it comes to our reading appetite, our team is divided into two camps – # TeamEscapistReads and # TeamPandemicReads – and neither side will budge.

Battle of the Books

To help us overcome our impasse, we ask you, our listeners, the question: What did you read during the pandemic? And boy did you answer? We have enough book recommendations to survive the rest of our days of self-isolation. (Well, hopefully.)

It turns out that many of you are also looking for books to get you out of our dire reality, like senior correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates. But there is also a good part of you who turn to books that lean into that darkness and fear, like editor Leah Donnella. And as host / umpire Shereen Marisol Meraji pointed out, many of you have said that the best books you have read have a bit of both.

Perhaps this list can be a balm for what ails you – whether it’s fear of the election, fear of the economy, or pandemic malaise. Books can’t fix everything, but they’re at least a good distraction.

The answers have been edited and compressed for reasons of clarity.

Team #EscapistReads

“”Reading has honestly been my greatest comfort during this pandemic. I have picked up many memoirs to live on behalf of the authors. Some of my favorites were obviously by Akilah Hughes and West Wingers, edited by Gautam Raghavan. I also loved RF Kuang’s Poppy War Series, which is a dark fantasy; The third book will appear in a few months. “-Grace Pierce

A Long Summer Ahead of Us: What Writers Read During the Pandemic

“I’m an academic librarian, and for the past 20 years I’ve been mostly a non-fiction reader, including books for library magazine reviews. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve started reading more fiction, mostly dystopian novels. I joke with them Colleagues and friends that reading dystopian fiction helped me feel less pessimistic about the present.

My first fiction read during the pandemic was The Road by Cormac McCarthy; Next up was A City of Ash and Red by Hye-young Pyun, followed by The Running Man by Richard Bachman. From there horror and thriller by Max Brooks, Stephen King (I’m reading 11/22/63) and Cormac McCarthy. Recently I felt the need to revert to more optimistic readings. After a few years, I reread Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (I wouldn’t necessarily call the film of the same name optimistic). ” -Kyle Winward

“I’m team escapism, although I appreciate the ‘both’ and ‘approach’ because I think my fictional choices include real subjects and some idealistic / romantic subjects for my nonfiction choices. This year, it was me ashamed more for fiction, especially young adults. I’m not ashamed! Some of the best YA I’ve read this year: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Wen, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Clap When You Land, The Poet X and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. ” -Pamela Lee

“I’ve heard a lot of Jane Austen novels about Audible. Every time I try to read something situationally relevant, I become unmotivated to read.” -Praveena Javvadi

“”I have just read Joanne Harris’ trilogy: Chocolat, The Shadowless Girl and Peaches for Monsieur Cure. Warning: You may suddenly be baking and eating delicious chocolate stuff from scratch. ” -Lois von der Goltz

“”I am an almost exclusive romance reader. I love the genre so much. I’ve found that during these troubled times when it came to junk, I found joy in fantasy romance, where I can get lost reading about witches, dragons, and gear levers. Some of the youngest I would suggest: Phoenix Unbound and Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven and The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson “-Brandan Herbert

“”Sometimes the best escape plan doesn’t work. This spring I deliberately picked up Jonathan Rosen’s book The Life of Heaven because, although it was about the end of nature, it was mainly a meditation on the intersection of nature, poetry, history, philosophy and nature, science and the human mind.

“It seemed like the perfect leisurely escape, written by a … Central Park Birder. By the time I was way down the book in May, real world events overtook the world of the book with Amy Cooper’s racist confrontation with the Birder Christian Cooper in Central Park and accounting for the Teddy Roosevelt statue that stood there in front of the Natural History Museum. So much for my escape! ” -Greg Bish

Team #PandemicReads

“Even before the pandemic, I’ve dealt with creepy, creepy, scary, bloody and all of the above – I’m sure it will remain a favorite genre with COVID as well. Two readings that stand out: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones and Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica. ” -Madeline Hanes

“I just finished Severance by Ling Ma. Reading a 2018 book about an airborne virus spreading across the ocean seems a bit surreal right now. But while the novel can be read as a horror novel, it is so much more than that. And that ‘so much more’ is maybe even more resonant than the virus itself, if that is possible. “- –Clara Boza

Octavia Butler: Writing Yourself in History

“I just finished Parable of the Sower (my first Octavia Butler) this week. I finished it late at night and immediately emailed all English language bookstores [in Berlin, where I live now] to see who had a copy of the sequel, which I almost never do. It is so good.

“One hopeful read that surprised me was In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, which was about the American ambassador of the German experience in Berlin in the 1930s. It was so blatant and terrifying to read about it, but somehow that comforted me. Humanity has overcome these ruthlessly dark times. “- –Ami Bogin

Team #PorqueNoLosDos?

“”Right now I’m reading cozy secrets, Afro-Futurism, and non-fiction books on racism, feminism, and politics. I also read self health books on dealing with anxiety and ADHD. ” -Lara Frater

“I’m on the Read All The Books team and have devoured everything I can get my hands on since I was sent to work from home in March. This includes nonfiction books that really challenge me (like Danielle Allen’s Our Declaration) and all kinds of fiction (I couldn’t get rid of Catherine House!) But last week I sat down with Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone and devoured them in one session, it could be the most perfect thing I’ve ever read I think , it ruined every other book for the rest of my life for me. It’s beautiful through and through. “- –Elizabeth Richards

When poets decide who counts

“”For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to wean myself off of so much social media by reading more books! I’m the kind of person who likes to have a few bookmarks in a variety of books at once – and one such book is Nepantla: An Anthology, Queer Poets of Color, edited by Christopher Soto. It’s perfect when I’m between chores or errands, when I’m particularly prone to picking up my phone for a pointless scroll and instead reading a few poems here and there by weird colored people like me. “-Eli Torres

“I’m a team ‘everything that can get me out of my head.’ I really think Code Switch listeners would like Dread Nation and The Deathless Divide, both from Justina Ireland, books set in an alternate historical reality where the civil war dead rose from the battlefield. The protagonists Both are young black women The series begins, both are in training to become “companions” – personal servants and zombie slayers – who will serve wealthy white women. They have a mad scientist, a reluctant female friendship and some seriously evil heroines … and definitely some resonance with the world we live in!

On the romantic side, I’m currently reading The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan. I love the way Milan’s most recent historical novels set in England show a wide variety of characters. This is a romance between a half-Chinese duke and a young working class woman whose parents left China to work as indented servants in the Caribbean and later came to England. It’s great to start, and as a history teacher, I really want to move on to the historical note at the end!

Besides, I’m listening to the audio version of Karen Grigsby Bates’ Plain Brown Wrapper. I am really enjoying it so far! ” -Christina Heisser

“”When the pandemic broke out and libraries and used bookstores closed, I was at a loss. I don’t have an e-reader and I didn’t want to spend any money on new books that would one day end up on my shelf to be Marie Kondo-d (also # sustainability). Enter the small free library. Those community posts, usually filled with self-help books that no one wanted to read, suddenly burst at the seams, with new books switching in and out every week. I rode my bike around town to see everyone I knew and rummaged through them for my next read. I’ve read everything from Hemingway and Virginia Woolf to Big Little Lies to memoirs from the YouTuber ‘Ask a Mortician’, and now I’m reading Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart. I can’t say I absolutely decided to to rent one of these in the library but I’m so glad I picked it up. Reading the quarantine, my aim is to roll the blows, do what you can, find the silver lining. “-Taylor Thornberg

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