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Cooped up?

Booksellers have some recommendations.

Story and photo by Jack West

With the number of coronavirus cases in Alabama climbing every day, it is beginning to look like many people will be spending the rest of their summer — and possibly a lot of their fall — quarantined, socially distanced and likely bored.
Netflix, movies and hours scrolling through Twitter and Facebook have become coping mechanisms to stem the tides of boredom. The problem is that now, nearly six months into the coronavirus pandemic, even those options can seem dry.
For those looking for an alternative to the internet for readable content, there are plenty of good options for your bookshelf. If you don’t know where to start, we talked with two book buyers and reviewers for independently run bookstores in Alabama who gave us some suggestions.

Ashley Warlick, a novelist and writing professor, is in charge of buying books for Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers, a locally owned bookstore in Auburn; and Anderson McKean is the buyer and reviewer for Page & Palette, a third-generation family-owned bookstore in Fairhope.
Here is their list of new books, old books, summer books and fall books that are topically, geographically and timelessly relevant.

The Secret History by Donna Tart
According to Warlick, this literary thriller novel is a great choice for someone who might have had a few years go by without reading a book. “It opens with a circle of friends standing at the top of a cliff and the fifth friend dead at the bottom,” she says. “It’s a fantastic book, and it’s a fantastic book to pick up when you might miss your own college friends.”

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
McKean says that this book, which comes out in August and is about a girl’s determination to follow the migratory patterns of arctic terns, is incredibly hard to stop reading.
“It is one of those books that, once you start it, you literally cannot put it down,” she says. “Throughout the novel, you literally feel like you are out on this research vessel. You can smell the sea; you can feel the spray coming against your face, and you just are just completely transported on this journey of this woman.”

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison
This award-winning novel is the first in Jemison’s Broken Earth trilogy. It is a great option for fans of fantasy novels, but also has an appeal to readers outside of the genre.
“[It’s a] fantasy world that is built on the language of geology and engineering, and the sort of magical entities in the trilogy move earth with their brains,” Warlick says. “It’s exciting, and it’s super smart. I had the best time, and I don’t read that genre ever.”

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Written by the same author as A Man Called Ove, Backman’s newest book is set to come out in September. According to McKean, the characterization and loving atmosphere in Backman’s novels are, among other things, a good reason to keep reading.
“(Backman’s novels) are filled with these quirky, endearing characters that you feel like could be your family, your friends, your neighbors,” she says. “You just find yourself wanting to give all of these people a hug by the time that you’re finished with this novel.”

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
In her new novel, Gyasi, who was born in Ghana but raised in Huntsville, Alabama, explores the origins and realities of addiction. “The novel is about a young Ghananian medical research student who is studying mice for their addictive patterns,” Warlick says. “In that, she is trying to uncover the roots of addiction and pain and difficulty in her own childhood.”

For more information on any of these and other books, check with your local booksellers, your local library or online resources.