Team RTR Book Club: 18 Books to Read While Social Distancing

April 9, 2020

Of all the limited activities we’re able to do right now — cooking, puzzling, gazing out our windows reminiscing on the days when we frolicked outside within mere inches of one another — reading is the truest source of escapism. It’s the most readily available outlet to tuck our brains into while getting cozy with another world that’s not social distancing right now.

Here you’ll find a variety of recommendations from Team RTR that invite you to divert your mind away from today’s wavering throes and into the whirs of someone else’s. 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Recommended by Alex A., Product Manager

Genre: Literary Fiction

Her Synopsis: A story of two girls growing up in post WWII Italy, their friendship throughout the years, and how the opportunity to receive an education affected their lives in different ways.

Her Review: ICONIC. So similar to many of our own experiences with friendship in the modern world. It’s also an HBO series — highly recommend! 

Read if You Like: Stories about friendship and strong female leads.

© Europa Editions

The Institute by Stephen King

Recommended by Nicole L., Director of Business Operations & Strategy

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Her Synopsis: A 12 year old with special abilities is captured and taken to a secret government institution.

Her Review: Easy to read page turner. Thrilling, but not too scary!

Read if You Like: Sci-fi thrillers that leave you ruminating well after you’ve finished the last page.

© Scribner

Optic Nerve by María Gainza

Recommended by Dan T., Data Products

Genre: Biographical Fiction

His Synopsis: A series of loosely-related vignettes, each intertwined with a moment in art history.

His Review: A thoughtful, well-written look at the way art impacts one woman’s life—both directly and indirectly.

Read if You Like: Art and art history.

© Catapult

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Recommended by Alison P., Social Media Manager

Genre: Literary Fiction

Her Synopsis: Without giving too much away, you’re reading a diary of a Japanese schoolgirl, which has also just been discovered by Ruth (the novelist).

Her Review: I inhaled this book. It’s funny, deep and unforgettable. It gripped me with its first paragraph: “Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.”

Read if You Like: Haruki Murakami, magical realism, dreamy tales of loss and love and change.

© Viking

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Recommended by Claire J., Legal

Genre: Nonfiction

Her Synopsis: An account of Ronan Farrow’s investigative journalism into Harvey Weinstein.

Her Review: There is so much to admire and respect from the team of journalists (and the women who came forward during the #MeToo movement). Also, Ronan’s writing style is pretty charming. Despite the terribly heavy topic, his self-deprecating sense of humor made this a quick, informative, and enjoyable read.

Read if You Like: Reading about journalistic integrity in the “fake news” era.

© Little, Brown and Company

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Recommended by Kim A., Senior Director of Brand & Content Strategy

Genre: Literary Fiction

Her Synopsis: A thrilling coming-of-age story of survival fueled by mystery, nature, isolation and class.

Her Review: A (literal) wild coming-of-age story of a poor, young girl set in the mysterious marshlands of the South. The entire novel surprised me. Part murder mystery, part romance, part science, part nature; it’s a beautifully written narrative that you have to read just for the unexpectedness of it all.

Read if You Like: Character-driven mysteries that explore gender, femininity, class, economic status, science and nature.

© G.P. Putnam’s Son

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Recommended by Gabby C., Chief Brand Officer

Genre: Nonfiction Memoir

Her Synopsis: A therapist goes through a big breakup and realizes she needs therapy of her own.

Her Review: Excellent read, especially for anyone who has been in therapy before. Funny, smart and witty.

Read if You Like: Strong and smart female leads working through challenges.

© HMH Books

Weather by Jenny Offill

Recommended by Michael LC., Engineering Manager

Genre: Literary Fiction

His Synopsis: A librarian wrestles with the emotional impact of both her addict brother and the climate change crisis.

His Review: The balance between the personal and global narrative packs a punch. The story is told in purposeful, single-sentence paragraphs. It’s almost poetry.

Read if You Like: Unconventional storytelling. (And if you loved her previous book, Dept. of Speculation.)

© Knopf

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Recommended by Sonia E., Senior Manager of Brand & Content Strategy

Genre: Mystery Fiction

Her Synopsis: A famous artist murders her equally famous husband and never speaks again. She enters a forensic unit where a criminal psychologist tries to break her silence and uncover the mystery as to why she killed her husband.

Her Review: This book is an onion—so many layers! And who doesn’t love a good page turner? This was a fast read that kept me up later than usual. I couldn’t put it down.

Read if You Like: Psychological thrillers but not the ones that make you afraid of the dark.

© Celadon Books

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Recommended by Angela D., CX

Genre: Dystopian Fiction

Her Synopsis: A mysterious illness takes over a college town.

Her Review: This was captivating. Full disclosure, I finished it before the Stay At Home orders. It will not provide an escape in the age of Covid-19, but may be perfect for those leaning into their anxiety right now.

Read if You Like: Reading YA Dystopian novels.

© Penguin Random House

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Recommended by Allison K., PM of Office Expansion & Culture

Genre: Fiction

Her Synopsis: A fictional tale of an iconic 60s rock band, their rise to fame and their demise. Written in the style of personal interviews with each member a la Rolling Stone.

Her Review: A totally different way of storytelling that immerses you in the plot and gets up close and personal with each character. I read this in one straight shot and can’t stop recommending it to my friends!

Read if You Like: Realistic fiction and music history. (And anyone who feels they should have lived through the 60s and 70s.)

© Penguin Random House

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

Recommended by Ebony M., CX

Genre: Literary Fiction

Her Synopsis: A fictional story about a shepherd boy who embarks on a journey from his home in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of treasure. No one knows what the treasure is, or if he’ll be able to find it.

Her Review: It made me view things differently and realize how important it is to follow your heart and chase your dreams—no matter what obstacles may come.

Read if You Like: Stories about adventure and finding motivation within.

© HarperCollins

30 Before 30: How I Made a Mess of My 20s, and You Can Too by Marina Shifrin

Recommended by Peter Y., Quality Engineer

Genre: Nonfiction Essays

His Synopsis: A funny collection of essays about a young woman’s attempt to accomplish 30 goals before turning 30. It’s not your traditional self-help book.

His Review: Humorous and entertaining that’s both a light and relatable read.

Read if You Like: Humorous personal essays.

© St. Martin’s Publishing Group

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzalez

Recommended by Bryan F., Senior Experience Designer

Genre: Nonfiction

His Synopsis: Real accounts and stories of people who survive (or don’t) in dire, life and death situations. The use of hard facts and powerful storytelling really make this a page turner.

His Review: This is one of my favorite books of all time. The very real stories within are able to be used as lessons in everyday life, not just in survival mode situations. It definitely changed the way I see and analyze the world around me.

Read if You Like: Nonfiction, survival and science-based storytelling. If you’ve read and enjoyed Endurance by Alfred Lansing, this is right up your alley.

© W.W. Norton

The White Album by Joan Didion

Recommended by Sarah L., HR Manager & Tech Recruiter

Genre: Nonfiction Essays

Her Synopsis: A selection of essays previously published in Life and Esquire from the 60s and 70s. Didion explores society, culture, economics, war, music, mental health, the movie business and more.

Her Review: My first Didion read. I liked it for her crisp, sometimes acerbic style, unique perspective and sharp wit. She doesn’t pull any punches. Her piece on California waterworks is compelling, not least for exposing her own quirky obsessions.

Read if You Like: Essays, reportage, and thought-provoking pieces.

© Simon & Schuster

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Recommended by Danielle N., Senior Planner

Genre: Literary Fiction

Her Synopsis: An entertaining, historical novel about a young woman named Katey Kontent. Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old who falls in love with a wealthy socialite. 

Her Review: Amor Towles is an excellent storyteller and beautiful writer. He paints such an incredible picture of New York City just before World War II, it’s almost cinematic. 

Read if You Like: Historical fiction and the jazz and glamour of NYC in the late 1930s.

© Penguin Random House

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

Recommended by Lucie S., Senior Accounting Manager

Genre: Memoir

Her Synopsis: A memoir of the author’s life, including her struggles through private school, moving to NYC and working in the fashion magazine industry—sprinkled along the way with drug addiction and alcohol abuse. The whole story is littered with name and label dropping that will bring you back to the era when Cosmopolitan and Juicy Couture ruled all.

Her Review: It sounds vastly different than my life but I found it oddly relatable. Although she is writing about some very real and heavy struggles, she does it in a way that is honest and sometimes downright funny.

Read if You Like: Light-hearted autobiographies reminiscent of the writing I’d imagine from Carrie Bradshaw.

© Simon & Schuster

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Recommended by Alison R., Senior Director of Communications

Genre: Fiction

Her Synopsis: A couple relocates from Calcutta to the suburbs of Boston, and give birth to a baby boy in the midst of their cultural acclimation—which is not at all easy. From early on, their son is visibly trapped between two worlds: the more traditional Indian one that his parents envision for him, and his American identity.

Her Review: A true character study, this colorful and beautifully written novel is relatable to anyone who has done the hard work to find comfort and confidence in their true identity. One of my most favorite reads of all time.

Read if You Like: Character-driven fiction; learning about the distinct cultures that make America beautiful and hard and wonderful.

© HMH Books

Feature image by Florencia Viadana