20 books local experts recommend while you’re social distancing

We asked the staff at Brookline Booksmith, Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, and Trident Booksellers & Café for their reading recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A man reads a book on his balcony on the third day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19. NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

Local bookstores, like many businesses in the state, have closed their doors to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While their shops are closed, the booksellers are still doing business online, with many offering options like free shipping or even curbside pickup, for book orders. And they’re still engaging with customers on social media, offering reading recommendations for those looking for entertainment and comfort during the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Update: Harvard Book Store to Close Temporarily To Our Harvard Book Store Customers & Cambridge Community: Harvard Book Store will temporarily close to the public beginning at 6pm on Sunday, March 15. We plan to remain closed to the public for two weeks, through Saturday, March 28. Our staff will continue “behind the scenes” during this time, fulfilling online ( and phone orders, recommending books online and by phone, and brainstorming creative ways to safely have our community access the books and book knowledge of Harvard Book Store and its staff. This was not an easy decision. But we feel it is the most responsible decision for the health and safety of our staff and community at this time. We pride ourselves on being a gathering place for the readers of Cambridge, Somerville, and Greater Boston—particularly during troubling times. But at this time, “gathering” goes against prevailing public health recommendations that have only intensified in the last 24 hours. We feel we must do our part to “flatten the curve” while fulfilling our mission—to the best of our ability during uncertain times—to provide books to our customers, in a safe and responsible manner, and to support the community in any ways that we can. Going forward—while our doors are closed temporarily—we plan to staff our phones, email, and web order services from 10am to 6pm daily. Please see the link in bio for what you can do to support the store and our staff during this time. Thank you for your understanding. We are grateful for your patronage. Please email questions and comments to us at [email protected]. Be well, Harvard Book Store

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We asked the staff at Brookline Booksmith, Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, and Trident Booksellers & Café to send us their picks of the best books to keep you company. Below, the 20 reads they recommend for this era of social-distancing and self-quarantine. 



“My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante

“I recommend tackling something big in the coming weeks, like My Brilliant Friend and the rest of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which is a long, engrossing story of female friendship and a window into the Italy of another time.” — Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

“Magic for Liars” by Sarah Gailey

A noir detective story meets Harry Potter in this murder mystery at a magical high school in California. (AKA the read that will have you staying up all night, bringing back memories of reading the new HP you snagged at the midnight release party.)” — Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books

“Rat Rule 79” By Rivka Galchen, Elena Megalos 

“An inventive adventure full of wordplay, riddles, and strangely wonderful characters, this book is an utter delight! For readers of all ages who love The Phantom Tollbooth, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Alice in Wonderland.” — Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books

“North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell 

 “This less-known classic has the longing looks of Austen and the class commentary of Dickens. Also, there’s a several hour mini-series you can watch when you’re done.” — Amy Brabenec, Brookline Booksmith

“Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz

“Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz is an Agatha Christie-style British murder mystery, a book within a book, and a pure, escapist delight.” — Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

“Severance” by Ling Ma

“Darkly and dryly humorous, the novel is a zombie horror story, an office satire, a coming of age narrative, an immigrant saga, and a meditation on the perils and pleasures of nostalgia.” — Dina Mardell, Porter Square Books

“The Golden Age” by Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa 

“An exiled princess is going to retake her throne and save the kingdom from power-hungry lords in one of the most gorgeous graphic novels to come out in recent years. Read it once to tear through the story then read it a second time to savor the artwork.” — Amy Brabenec, Brookline Booksmith

“The Story of a Goat” by Perumal Murugan, translated by N. Kalyan Raman 

“Meet Poonachi, the young she-goat of a farmer couple in India. This fable offers sly social commentary from an unforgettable perspective.” — Shuchi Saraswat, Brookline Booksmith

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

I loved and would recommend Little Fires Everywhere by local author Celeste Ng at any time, but the Hulu adaptation starts streaming this week, so if you’re stuck at home for a while, it’s the perfect time to catch up.” — Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

“Daisy Jones and the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“If you ever wanted the ‘true’ story behind ‘Almost Famous,’ this is it. Though fiction, the story is told in interview style that reads like an episode of Behind the Music.” — Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers & Café 

“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid

“An engrossing story that tackles big issues, from race to gender, to economic status.” — Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers & Café 

“The Hating Game” by Sally Thorne  

“Rom-com darlings Lucy and Josh are rival co-workers who delight in the wittiest of banter and making each other miserable … or maybe they just delight in each other?” — Amy Brabenec, Brookline Booksmith

“I Hotel” by Karen Tei Yamashita 

“Yamashita’s innovative, massive, sprawling novel tells the story of the social and political turbulence of San Francisco in the 1960s in a way that respects the anger and conflict that drove so much change, while centering hope and community as the real heroes of the book.” — Dina Mardell, Porter Square Books



“National Geographic Backyard Guides to the Birds of North America” by Jonathan Alderfer

“This month we were already featuring a selection of books on birds, so I’d recommend picking up a bird guide like the National Geographic Backyard Guides to the Birds of North America and making the most of time spent in your own backyard or walking in nature on your own.” — Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

“Making Comics” by Lynda Barry 

“Sitting down with this book and materials available at any office supply shop, readers can work through Barry’s course, and learn about abilities they’d forgotten they had. A brilliant, accessible book from an extraordinary person.” — Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books

“A Cook’s Tour” by Anthony Bourdain

“Bourdain’s collection of essays changed how I eat and how I travel. Like all the best travel writing, it is a way to escape the four walls of your room and indulge in the natural curiosity that makes travel so important and rewarding. I’ve read several of them many times so, for me, they bring the comfort of the familiar, while still celebrating the joy of discovery.” — Dina Mardell, Porter Square Books

“Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou

“The true story behind the rise and fall of Theranos and an insight into the intriguing figure that is Elizabeth Holmes.” — Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers & Café 

“When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chodron

“Beloved Buddhist nun Pema Chodron is a source of comfort for many, and over the coming days and weeks I’ll be turning to When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times to help find steadiness in this time of uncertainty.” — Rachel Cass, Harvard Book Store

“Underland: A Deep Time Journey” by Robert Macfarlane

“Robert Macfarlane has spent his career understanding the evolving relationship between humans and the natural world. In Underland he takes us on a journey to the universe beneath our feet. I love spending time with his voice and his mind and Underland is a wonderful book to sink into.” — Shuchi Saraswat, Brookline Booksmith

“All the Sad Songs” by Summer Pierre 

“This graphic memoir gives a glimpse into the role music played in Pierre’s life from college through age 30 — much of which she spent on stages in Camberville. Albums and playlists are included, making this a treasure trove.” — Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books


What books are you turning to for comfort and entertainment during the virus outbreak? Share with us in the comments or email us at [email protected] and your submission could be featured in an upcoming story. 


<h2>Your 60-second guide to social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak</h2>


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