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So you’re stuck at home with nothing to read, huh? Or maybe you’ve got piles of books, massive tomes begging for your attention that you still, for some mysterious reason, have been ignoring while you search for the unwavering high that comes along with a new book recommendation? Either way, we’ve got you, and by we, I actually mean the DC Public Library’s ebook library. Whether you’re self-quarantine-ing or have been forced to work from home out of caution, DCPL has a really excellent ebook library that you can peruse from the comfort of your couch. You don’t even need an ebook reader, all you need is a phone + the Libby app / the Kindle app + a library card!

The plus side to DCPL’s ebook library is that your books will never be late and you can rent a book from anywhere in the world. The downside to DCPL’s ebook library is that the waitlists for popular titles can be many months long. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has a six month long wait, Educated by Tara Westover has a 25 week wait, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett has a 22 week wait, etc.

But you don’t have time to wait. You need something to read now before your quarantine is lifted and you can leave the house again without feeling like a biohazard. Besides, if you’re huddling in your apartment for more than six months, you’ll have bigger issues than seeing what those crawdads are doing. So peep the list below for five books you can rent right now (as of this publishing, I can’t make any promises about the future) that have been personally vetted by me and five books that are on my “to read” list that you can snatch up as we speak. These books lean on the newer side because I tend to buy older books used and read new things on my Kindle.

Happy reading. Don’t forget to wash your hands.

Not quarantined? Down to leave the house and get some books (or get rid of some books!), come to our upcoming BYT Book Swap. It’s going to be fun and free because it’s always fun and free.


My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I can’t imagine a better book to kick off 14 (or more!) days of solitude then My Year of Rest and Relaxation. This book is truly buck wild. Despite its Goop heavy title, the novel follows a woman who uses a menagerie of prescription drugs in an attempt to sleep through an entire calendar year. The narrator is so wildly selfish, insular and angry, her internal tirades and lack of interest in the world around her veer into an addictive black humor. I read this baby while on the beach in Ocean City and had a ball explaining the plot to my horrified relatives. It doesn’t hurt that Moshfegh has a new book coming out next month, so this is the perfect time to catch up on her captivating work.

Vacationland by John Hodgman

Okay, so quarantine isn’t exactly a vacation, but beach reading is good for the soul no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Vacationland is John Hodgeman’s love letter to the state of Maine (and also Massachusetts). Following his life from a young age into adulthood, it’s deeply funny and jam packed with infinitely quotable lines. Take a break from the four walls around you and spend sometime jumping into the (very cold) water with this mustachioed man. I am two weeks away from getting off the  waitlist for John Hodgeman’s newest book Medallion Status and I can’t wait to get back in this man’s mind.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This book is a captivating exercise in nostalgia, delayed satisfaction and regret. Close your eyes, look back and think about your college experience, your high school experience, your… middle school experiences? Think about your regrets, the friends you could have had, the relationships you might have pursued, the lost opportunities, roll them up together and you’ve got The Idiot. And it fucking rules, even if it very often hits too close to home. The story basically follows a young woman going to Harvard in the 90s who falls in love (kind of?) with an older student who (kind of?) dates her while (kind of?) not dating her at the same time. I don’t know if you’ve been there, but I absolutely have. As a side note, they’re turning this baby into a movie at some point, so dive in before the trailers start coming out and this book is has a 20+ week waitlist.

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

I try to jump back and forth between fiction and non-fiction, so this was one of my non-fiction picks last year and it ended up being one of the most useful books I read last year. If you’re looking for a crash course in the deceptive world of wine. Written by a journalist who left behind the media world to become a sommelier, Cork Dork breaks down the science, history and politics behind wine. It takes you from bacchanalian wine dinners to the vineyards of California and everywhere in between, while still being approachable and fun. Even if you don’t know anything about wine, this book will set you straight.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

This book feels like a conversation with your best friend, if your best friend was 10 times funnier and 10 times more clever. This is not meant as a knock on your best friend, but I laughed so hard and so often (I cried too, but let’s talk about the laughing because the crying is personal) while reading Samantha Irby’s series of essay that it almost felt wrong. i laughed on my couch, I laughed on the train… and those are really the only two places I inhabit, so yeah. If you’re looking for excellent opinions on The Bachelorette franchise (among a million other things), you’ve come to the right place. Since you can’t see your friends in real life, you might as well make some new ones.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The first book in the Neapolitan Novels was published in 2012 but I feel like I didn’t hear a lick about it until 2018, when it blew up because HBO was turning it into a series, etc. Since that very moment, I’ve been intrigued by the premise of the novels, which follows the lives and relationship between two smart and capable women who are living outside of Naples, Italy. You can probably just read My Brilliant Friend and call it a day, but if you love this one you also have the three remaining books to keep you company.

Taipei by Tao Lin

I’ve been reading a lot of books set in / talking about the mid-2000s (How to Murder Your Life, Blackwave, and selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee) and it’s put me in a very specific mood. A mood to go back to the books of my youth, and by that I mean Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel. Except, I don’t actually want to read that book, so I’m gunning for Lin’s Taipei instead. The book basically seems to follow a couple who are young and do a lot of drugs (which is a subgenre of books I’m very into) but more than that, it’s about their lives online (a subgenre I’m even more into than the drug subgenre). This is a book about the heyday (although that could be argued) of Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter. Take a short break from being on the Internet and read about other people being on the Internet instead!

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

You’ve absolutely heard of this book because it was hot as hell when it came out in 2017 and still popping up on best books to read right now lists (like the list you’re reading now, we’re coming full circle, baby). As you may be able to tell from title, Lockwood’s Priestdaddy is a chronicle of her life growing up with her Catholic priest dad who has a lot of opinions and hobbies, none of which feel especially priest-like. It seems very funny and very interesting, and since I love learning about the weirder and wilder sides of religion, I’m all in.

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Every year (maybe not every year, but it feels like every year, but it feels like every year in a good way) Tana French publishes another one of her Dublin Murder Squad books and every year I spend a week living in the heads of hard boiled detectives as they use their whip smart minds to try and solve gruesome crimes. These are good mysteries. So good. The characters are captivating, the crimes are horrible and none of it feels schlocky. These are mysteries that make you feel like you’re becoming a smarter and more empathetic human. The nicest thing about this series is that you can read them completely out of order if you like. They exist in the same “cinematic universe” but are basically self contained, so you can bebop around at your whims. Most of them have waitlists, but The Witch Elm (her latest) and The Trespasser are 100% read to infiltrate your Kindle.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

This book might be a little too taboo for those of you looking for something funny and light (or grim and light) to keep your mind off of coronavirus, but for those of you who enjoy (which is probably not the right word, but let’s go for it) transgressive novels about horrifying things, I can help you with that! The Vegetarian has been on my list for a minute and I think it’s finally time for me to take this one on. It’s about a woman who becomes a vegetarian, but it seems like it’s also deeply not about that. It might be best if you read the New York Times review that made me want to read this book.

Now get up and get to reading. Just because you can stay in your pajamas all day, doesn’t mean your mind should stay in bed too.


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