Recommended Reading During the Pandemic
Each week we’re checking in with a local bookshop owner, who will help keep your to-read pile stocked with a recommendation. The editors of New Hampshire Magazine will also share what they’re reading, just in case you’re curious. We’re collecting all of the recommendations below, and you can keep up with the weekly picks here, plus find a list of stores that are open for pickup and shipping.
First up is Michelle Taft, owner of Bayswater Books in Center Harbor
“Bayswater has been staying busy by providing curbside pickup and direct-to-home deliveries. We are also offering some books for free, as many of our used books have come to us as patron donations. Until we are open for business as usual, these books are available 24 hours a day on our front porch.
What am I reading? ‘Station Eleven,’ by Emily St. John Mandel, the story of a swine flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population, and how a group of artists and musicians travel together to newly established settlements to keep their art alive. The story spans decades exploring how humanity falls apart and ultimately comes back together.” — Michelle Taft, owner of Bayswater Books
From the editors
“I read ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ — Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s pulp thriller about a comet strike that ends the world as we know it — back in 1979, right around the last time the world actually seemed to be coming to an end. Reading apocalyptic fiction in a time of nuclear madness, ozone depletion, cult recruitment and the birth of disco may seem redundant or else instructive. Problem is you never know what kind of apocalypse you’re going to get.
With the COVID-19 menace changing everything today, there’s some inspiration to be found in the can-do attitude of the book’s main band of survivors, who science their way out of the brutal neo-dark ages with something verging on optimism. Every horrid crisis contains its own escape, often hidden in mundane artifacts of the former era. It’s one of those books that change the way you look at the world. For instance, I have ever since examined every building I enter to judge its stability and usefulness for defending against the cannibal dregs of humanity should the world suddenly change for the very worst.
And that’s what good end-of-the-world stories should do: get our ATTENTION and get our thoughts out of the ordinary muck and into the extraordinary muck that hovers so close at hand, just a mere universe away. ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ points to a thin spot between this universe and that one where it’s easy to push your head through to breathe the brimstone and fresh air blending on the other side.
And as earthquakes, tsunamis, atomic clouds and severe climate changes stir things up for the people who remain there, it definitely makes social distancing and endless zoom meetings seem bearable.”
—Rick Broussard, Editor
“After reading N.K. Jemisin’s ‘Broken Earth’ trilogy, I could not wait for her followup, ‘The City We Became.’ Trying to distill Jemisin’s wildly creative, wonderfully strange plot into a paragraph is difficult, but basically the premise is that major cities, when they reach a mysterious tipping point, come to life. And they need the help of human avatars to see them through birth — and deadly battle with an ancient enemy determined to kill any newborn city. ‘The City We Became’ follows the avatars of New York City’s boroughs as they fight to rid their home of a Lovecraftian horror that infects their fellow New Yorkers, and threatens to end not just New York, but our entire universe. Given the timing, it’s impossible not to read this through the lens of how a very real infectious ‘monster’ is stalking New York and the world.
If you’re looking for some ‘hey, things could be worse’ end-of-the-world escapism, the trilogy I mentioned above, ‘Broken Earth,’ is the perfect choice. Each book won a Hugo Award (in three sequential years) for good reason — this gorgeously written story is original, engrossing and difficult to put down. If you think you’ve read every kind of apocalypse fiction, you haven’t — at least not until you’ve turned the last page of this astonishing series. To try to sum it up would be to deprive you of the joy of discovering Jemisin’s skillful world-building (and destroying) for yourself.”
— Erica Thoits, Managing Editor