Books to Read In this Strange Time of Social Distancing Listed by Genre

You need something to do while you stay in? Tired of TV? Bored with gaming? Read a book! I’ve broken it into sci-fi that may freak you out a little right now, romances that are fluffy and cute and mostly inappropriate for reading in public (which is perfect, since you’re staying home anyway), and fantasy because who doesn’t love a magical, mythical story?

SciFi Books to Read While You Lean Into this Strange Time of Social Distancing

  1. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith – This book is surreal and absurd. It features giant bugs and the end of the world as we know it. It’s also funny, and follows a teenage boy and his relationships as the world faces the giant bug plague.
  2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – The first in a series, Annihilation is suspenseful sci-fi bordering on thriller. James and I read this in our own two person book club, and I would recommend getting a friend to read it so that you too can speculate together on what is really going on.
  3. I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi – Honesty time. I haven’t finished this one yet. I’m only a few pages in, BUT. The premise is that aliens found us, and gave us 7 days notice of the end of the Earth. Which is a little like Hitchhiker’s Guide, but the vibe here is much less Monty Python style farce and more earnest teenagers trying to figure it out.
  4. The Martian by Andy Weir – What if you were the only person on the planet, trying to survive with limited remote support? That’s what you thought your life was going to be during social distancing? HA! Try being the only man on MARS. Seriously though, this book is excellent. Drops a few F-bombs though, if you’re sensitive about that you probably won’t love it.
  5. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green – Another one that occasionally cusses, this novel like a few others in this genre also deals with aliens finding the Earth. In this book though, their purpose is unknown and unclear, while their presence sets off a media firestorm not unlike the one we are experiencing with COVID-19. This book also tickles my funny bone.
  6. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Atwood is amazing, and her work is always making a comment about our society’s failures. This one focuses on the extremes of genetic engineering and climate change. A serious, dramatic novel. 

Romance Novels to Read While You Try to Distract Yourself in this Strange Time of Social Distancing

  1. Well Met by Jen Deluca – Nerds, rejoice. It’s set at a Ren Faire and it gets seriously NSFW steamy. Enjoy!
  2. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – This one is YAL, so it stays PG-13. An adorable teen romance.
  3. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – A woman with ASD wants to experience physical pleasure in a relationship, figures she’s the problem, not the dudes she’s been dating, and so hires a male escort to help her figure sexual intimacy out. You get one guess what happens!
  4. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie – They go on a date because of a bet, and it’s obviously NEVER going to work out… until, well, you know.
  5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Workplace romance, from back when people went into their workplaces instead of working remote. Did you know the cute tech guy can read all your emails and chats? Whoops, you probably shouldn’t chat with your work wife about how cute he is…
  6. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore – Your usual historical romance. The protagonist is a sort of feminist bluestocking, the love interest is a very rich aristocrat. All the will-they-won’t-they and bodice ripping you expect from this sort of novel.

Fantasy Novels to Really Escape From Our Reality in this Strange Time of Social Distancing

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Novik is amazing, and you should probably read all her books. This one is a fairy tale in which a “dragon” (not a dragon, just an immortal wizard) takes a girl away from the village each year, and this year the girl who is chosen isn’t the one everyone expected. We follow her story as she learns new skills and becomes something more powerful than a poor village girl.
  2. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente – Originally a serial web series with new chapters posted online, this novel would be a great option to read aloud to small children, if you have those in your life. The narrator is charming and makes little jokes adults will appreciate while children are enthralled with the magic of Fairyland.
  3. The Lioness Rampant Quartet by Tamora Pierce – this author should be on your To-Be-Read already because the rights to turn her 20+ books into TV/movies were recently purchased and if you liked Game of Thrones but wanted it to be one, less sexist, and two, completed, you are going to love Tamora Pierce’s work. This first series is YAL, short and quick to read. It follows a girl who wants to be a knight and hides her true identity to go through training. It also features magic, evil wizards, international intrigue, friendship and some romance.
  4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Another YAL pick, this is modern day meets fairy tale. A girl with blue hair who is raised by monsters and uncertain about who (or what?) she really is, a thousand-year war, and a forbidden love. Only downside is parts of this novel will make you want to go to Prague, which is just not an option right now.
  5. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – In case you hadn’t figured it out already, I’m a fan of YAL. This one is a medieval court drama that spirals into a war. I think this would be a fun one to read together with any teens/pre-teens in your life.
  6. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta – The first in a series, this novel is about taking back a kingdom and ending the curse on its people. This is beautifully written, though a little slow to start. It has great world building, fully rounded out characters, and a complex plot. It also gets a little intense as far as sex and violence are concerned.


Harry Potter etc. by JK Rowling, because it is always a good time to read or reread this series. Remember in times of darkness and despair, there is good in the world, there is love, and we can get through this together. Just, you know, at least six feet apart.

About Guenevere Zucker 2 Articles
Guenevere is a mom and Special Education English teacher who wants you to read something.