Over the past few weeks, I’ve become well acquainted with what it really feels like to be bored. I’ve found that one of the most effective tools to fight that feeling has been books. I love to read, so I feel confident presenting this list of books to help you break your cycle of boredom.
Some of these books are my personal favorites, others were recommended for this article by a question box I put up on my Instagram story, and several came from Kathleen Pearce and Lisa Harling, the ORHS librarians. All the books on this list are available through the ORHS library’s Overdrive, which you can access here or from the library website. The best part – you don’t have to leave your house or spend money to read any of these books. Books are available in varying formats. You can borrow them to read on your phone using the Sora app, in your browser, on a Kindle, or listen to the audiobook. If you have a book in mind that isn’t available in the school library, I have some advice for ways to access that book without leaving your house. However, be warned you may find it difficult unless you’re willing to buy the book.
I’ve divided the books into two different categories – classics and contemporaries. Pearce recommended a number of classic books because they’re almost always available in the school library’s digital book collection. You can find directions for how to access these books on the library’s website here. After the list of book recommendations, you can find more information about ways to access books without leaving your house.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power – A thriller about a quarantined private school with main characters who search for the truth behind a mysterious disease. Harling recommended this book, “because it’s set in New England and because it involves a strange illness. Definitely for readers who don’t mind chilling similarities to real-life events!”
Beartown by Fredrick Backman – I’m a longtime fan of Fredrick Backman; he invariably writes incredible stories that feature beautifully written, flawed, and relatable characters. Beartown is probably my favorite book of his. It starts as the story of a small town that lives and breathes for its hockey team and tells a story about rivalry, friendship, and tragedy. It’s hard to explain this book without giving it away, but perhaps the only book I would recommend more highly than Beartown is its sequel, Us Against Them. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to invest in a series, have no fear, Beartown tells its own complete story; you don’t have to read Us Against Them for the whole story, but you’ll probably want to.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Harling recommended this romance novel about two teenagers who face their independent, internal battles together; Violet struggles with survivors guilt after her sister’s death, and Finch with mental health issues and an abusive father. They work together to find the many ways that the world can be beautiful even when it isn’t always a good place. It’s a deeply beautiful, yet sad story about healing that faces the character’s issues head-on. Having read it myself, I would recommend it for when you’re in the mood for a book that will make you cry.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – What better way to pass time during a time of fear and uncertainty than with a well-loved story about friendship, magic, and overcoming the odds? Whether it’s your 1st time reading it, or your 101st time, you’ll be sure to find comfort within the pages of Harry Potter. According to Pearce, the first Harry Potter book will be available for immediate download as both an ebook and an audiobook on Overdrive and Sora. The audiobook is narrated by Jim Dale, a well-known audiobook reader.
Jackaby by William Ritter – Harling recommended this mystery-fantasy story set in the 1890s New England about an investigator with an eye for the extraordinary. Harling said, “this book has something for everyone, a touch of the occult, a mystery, and it is set in the past so it will definitely appeal to readers of historical fiction and fantasy.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – A series of beautifully written letters that serve as a diary for a socially awkward boy during his freshman year of high school. This is a short, yet powerful, coming of age book about working through trauma, falling in love, finding your people, and finding yourself. It’s a popular and memorable story for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – A historical fiction story about Spain during the years of Francisco Franco from the perspective of a mixed group of American and Spanish teenagers. The book details some of the horrors committed by the military police that patrolled the country for the extreme right-wing leaders. Harling recommended this title for while you’re stuck inside. She also enjoyed three of Sepetys’ other books. She said, “I’m currently reading this one and it’s great because you feel as though you are actually in Spain. We could all stand to get out of our homes right about now, if only in our minds!”
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews – The back cover aptly describes it as, “the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.” Pearce appreciated this book for being quirky, cute, and always available on Overdrive. It’s an abruptly honest story about a guy who’s forced to reunite with his childhood friend, Rachel, after she’s diagnosed with leukemia.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – A masterfully written post-apocalyptic science fiction book about a world so overtaken by strife that its inhabitants live almost exclusively in the Oasis, a hyper-advanced virtual reality game. Wade Watts and his friends enter a war for the very heart of the Oasis that has greater consequences than they’d anticipated. This book was fun, fast-paced, and loaded with 1980s pop-culture references. This is a book that almost anyone could enjoy, regardless of whether you usually enjoy science fiction.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillipe – Harling recommended this light-hearted, comedic, coming of age story about Norris Kaplan, a Haitian-Canadian teenager who’s forced to move from Montreal to Austin, Texas. Norris is uninterested in making friends and instead spends his time making fun of his classmates in a journal his guidance counselor gave him, according to TeenReads. Harling recommended it “because it’s very funny and I think we could all use a laugh right now! The characters are super relatable and the narrator is pretty snarky.”
Persuasion by Jane Austen – Pearce recommended any of Jane Austen’s books, but her favorite is Persuasion. I read and loved Pride and Prejudice, which is one of her more popular books, along with Emma. Austen is well known for her “escapist period romance[s] with feisty female characters,” as Pearce described them, that have stood the test of time. While the setting and language are unfamiliar and the social standards extreme, her characters seem like they could be a friend of yours. I recommend reading her works if only to help understand how much things have changed, and how much people have stayed the same.
Beloved by Toni Morrison – Natalie Eddy (‘20) recommended this book. It’s a story about the life journey of a freed slave and a woman named Beloved who reappears throughout the book as a baby, a ghost, then a woman. Eddy explained that it was a mixture of the present and the past. She said, “it’s intentionally written confusingly to imitate the way enslaved people would have felt at the time, their whole lives taken out of their control.” As a Morrison fan, Eddy loved Beloved and recommended it to everyone.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – If any book can claim timelessness, it’s the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Little Women has the power to make you feel at home no matter where you are or what’s going on. It’s a classic, homefront civil war story about four sisters from a poor family who learn to sacrifice the little things to gain the things that matter the most. They follow their dreams to each land their very own castle in the clouds.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – Pearce recommended this as an adventure book. She described it as a fun and easy read with buried treasure and pirates. It’s told from the perspective of the innkeeper’s son, a young boy who ends up caught in the midst of a treasure hunt. Pearce said it was especially perfect for reading out loud to younger siblings.
Call of the Wild by Jack London – Call of the Wild is another adventure story, this time set during the gold rush. Buck, the main character, was enlisted as one of the first sled dogs and found himself uprooted from his life in California to travel to Alaska. Pearce warned that mistaking Buck for a human is a common mistake when reading this book, so be warned, Buck is a dog.
Ways to read during the pandemic
Often, classic books are public domain, so if you want to read a book that isn’t available from the school library, Pearce recommended using Project Gutenberg, an online database with over 60,000 free ebooks available for download or for online reading as Kindle or epub books. Their website explains that most of the books were published before 1924 and that, “you will find the world’s great literature here, with focus on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired.” You can find the Project Gutenberg website here.
If you’re looking for a contemporary book that isn’t available in the library’s selection of ebooks and audiobooks, Pearce said, “I would love to get the word out that you can request new titles. I get those regularly and I’ll just go ahead and say ‘yes, yes, yes.’ Especially right now, I’m not going to be too picky about what we put in the ebooks and audiobooks because people need to read.”
Like print books, only one person can borrow each book at a time because the school only owns the rights to one copy of the book, so looking for less popular books will work to your advantage. You can also find digital books through your public library; for more information about how to access them visit your local library website. The challenge I’ve found with digital public libraries is that they reach a wider audience than school libraries so there’s often a very long wait, especially for the more popular books.
If audiobooks are more your speed you can try Audible, an audiobook service owned by Amazon. Audible is offering a very limited number of titles for kids and young adults while schools are closed. You can find those titles here. Pearce found the collection somewhat disappointing. “I kinda was hoping for a little bit more from Audible, especially cause they’re owned by Amazon, and Amazon is making big bucks right now,” she said. Of course, if you’re willing to pay for the service you’ll get access to a much wider variety of audiobooks.
As always, you can also order print books delivered to your house through any company that offers online shopping. I recommend Bookshop because they partner with and raise money for small, local bookstores. Bookshop lets you support businesses that might otherwise be struggling from lack of customers while potential shoppers stay home during the mandated social distancing. They also offer some ebooks and audiobooks. You can find their website here.
I hope this list helps you to break through the boredom and go on an adventure without breaking social distancing. Happy reading!
All the images for this article were taken from Amazon.