Hello, my friends!
It’s been a little over a week since everything shut down in Michigan. My tae kwon do class was canceled. My church is livestreaming. My ACT was postponed and my AP exam will be at my house. My musical is on hold with no definite plans to actually perform.
Most of you are probably in a similar situation. While I’m not going to be talking about COVID-19 specifically on my blog, I want to let you all know that I’m praying for us all and that you are not alone. We’re all in this together.
If you’re looking for resources to get you through all of this, here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:
- Andrew Peterson is reading aloud from On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness every night for the next couple of weeks on his Facebook and YouTube.
- Story Warren has a long list of online streaming options, including Audible, a readalong from Henry and the Chalk Dragon, live events with authors, concerts with Slugs & Bugs and lots of other artists, online ballet lessons, and zoo visits!
- S.D. Smith created a list of artists to support during this crazy time.
- The Gray Havens is hosting a free concert on Thursday night via their website.
- The Rabbit Room has created a digital care package featuring concerts, readalouds, writing classes, homeschool resources, and liturgy downloads.
- Douglas McKelvey shared his liturgy for those flooded by too much information.
- Brett Harris wrote a very helpful post about what teens can do to when the coronavirus cancels everything.
- My blogging friend Jo started an inspirational Instagram.
- And I’ve read a host of wonderful blog posts:
Once you’re done checking all those amazing resources out, though, you’re still going to be stuck at home. So you’ll probably go do your chores, and finish up your homework or schoolwork, and take a walk down the road, and get the mail, and call or text your friends, and check social media, and talk to your family, and watch a movie…
…and you’ll still be stuck at home.
Since I, like you, am stuck at home, I’ve decided to use my extra time and my intense boredom to read a lot of books. Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m not stuck at home, or I’m not bored, but it definitely helps to reduce my boredom, and when I read, I get to experience the life of someone else who lives somewhere else. So… I sort of get to travel.
I think that reading is one of the best things to do when you’re stuck at home and completely bored — and I also think that while setting goals to read classics or hard-to-read books is never a bad thing, your boredom will not end if you’re slogging your way through Orthodoxy or North and South (both of which excellent books I have recently read).
I think that right now, the best books to read are the kind that keep you up at night, the ones you can’t put down, the ones that make you care and cry and laugh and scream right along with the characters. So today I’m going to recommend books that I can’t put down, fast-paced and addicting stories with compelling plotlines and lovable characters.
I hope one of these books helps you escape to a different world and fall in love with its characters during this quarantine!
- Fawkes by Nadine Brandes is a historical fantasy set in a world where a plague turns people to stone, color magic users war against rival factions, and Guy Fawkes wants to set fire to Parliament. Read my review here! (Another historical fantasy by the same author is Romanov.)
- Keeper of the Lost Cities (and its numerous sequels) by Shannon Messenger is the perfect series to get into while you’re stuck at home. You won’t lack for books to read for a long while, and despite their length, the novels are very fast reads that draw you in.
- Heartless and sequels by Anne Elisabeth Stengl — my new favorite Christian fantasy, full of great allegory and characters I can’t stop caring about. I finished the whole series in a couple of weeks and am almost ready to re-read them (it’s only been about a month since I finished!).
- The Six and sequels by K.B. Hoyle is sort of a Harry Potter/Narnia inspired story about six kids who travel to a family camp and then through a portal to a magical world every year for six years. It’s so much fun but incorporates enough important themes and relatable character struggles that it’s not only for when you need an addictive series, but worth returning to later to think about and enjoy (and cry).
- Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling — you probably already have an opinion about this one, but if you’re not sure what you think of it or if you originally were wary but are reconsidering, I definitely recommend checking it out during the next few weeks!
- The Emerald Atlas and sequels by John Stephens is a trilogy about three siblings who get involved in a world-changing, time-traveling fantastical adventure.
- The Ruins of Gorlan and sequels/prequels/companions by John Flanagan (aka the Ranger’s Apprentice books) provide plenty of reading material and are so much fun the first time through. While I don’t like them very much any more, I definitely enjoyed myself when I discovered them and would highly recommend them if you want to get lost in a long series.
- Cinder and sequels by Marissa Meyer is a science fantasy/fairy tale retelling/romance series about a cyborg mechanic who falls for the prince. Subsequent books retell Little Red Riding Hood (with a genetically modified wolf-man hybrid), Rapunzel (with a technical genius stuck in a satellite), and Snow White (in which the insane princess and her guard take down the evil queen of the moon). The characters from each book show up in the next ones, forming alliances and strengthening friendships, and they’re all together at the final showdown. I’ve read these ones several times and never fail to tear through them at breakneck pace.
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — while the series as a whole is quite a philosophical, thought-provoking, time-consuming epic, the first book itself is fairly speedy reading and is utterly engrossing. Ender Wiggin is taken from his home as a six-year-old and taken to a space training center in preparation for the third invasion of an alien species. As he learns via a series of increasingly difficult simulation games, the real enemy remains a mystery.
- Artemis Fowl and sequels by Eoin Colfer is an action-adventure story about a teenage crime genius pitted against the fairies. It’s hilarious, unpredictable, and captivating. The recently released sequel series The Fowl Twins is, if possible, even funnier — and if you don’t want a whole series just now, go ahead and start with it.
- The Hunger Games and sequels by Suzanne Collins, which I just wrote a very long review thing/ramble about, is the kind of book you can’t put down until you know how it ends. I just finished the series and I know I’ll be living in its world until I can process what just happened.
- A Time to Die and sequels by Nadine Brandes definitely reminds me of the Hunger Games books, but I think it’s even better. Parvin Blackwater has only a year left to live, and she decides she’s not going to waste it. But being thrown into the wilderness sort of messes up her grand plans. You won’t be able to stop this trilogy once you start.
- Breeder and sequels by K.B. Hoyle, another Hunger Games-like dystopian series, follows Breeder Pria as she escapes from her home with the rebel Pax. Discovering that everything she’s been told is a lie, she’s forced to encounter the stark reality of a world controlled by a manipulative government, and eventually face down her creators.
- 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons is a super sweet contemporary romance about a girl who loses her sight and the boy who shows her how to get up after she falls. It’s an easy read, but beautiful and memorable.
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio is the story of Auggie, who is born with a facial difference. Told from the points of view of Auggie, his family and friends, and others affected by his life, it’s a moving story about how those with disabilities can change us.
- Holes by Louis Sachar is a wonderfully strange book that is best read with no idea what you’re getting into. I promise you’ll enjoy it.
- The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (the author of the Anne of Green Gables books) is a hilarious, sad, gorgeous historical romance. Valancy Stirling has lived her whole 29 years under her mother’s stern rules — but when she discovers she has only a year left to live, she decides to say and do what she wants, with unexpectedly crazy consequences.
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare is the exciting story of Kit, a girl thrust into a Puritan community and then accused of witchcraft, and Nat, the brave and cheeky sailor who rescues her.
- My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok is a fascinating look into Jewish culture as well as a riveting story about a young boy who wants to paint, despite his parents’ disapproval. The first few paragraphs immediately drew me in:
My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev, about whom you have read in newspapers and magazines, about whom you talk so much at your dinner affairs and cocktail parties, the notorious and legendary Lev of the Brooklyn Crucifixion.
I am an observant Jew. Yes, of course, observant Jews do not paint crucifixions. As a matter of fact, observant Jews do not paint at all–in the way that I am painting. So strong words are being written and spoken about me, myths are being generated: I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also, I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians, a blasphemous manipulator of modes and forms revered by Gentiles for two thousand years.
Well, I am none of those things. And yet, in all honesty, I confess that my accusers are not altogether wrong: I am indeed, in some way, all of those things.
This one’s harder, because — at least for me — there aren’t many nonfiction books that are so interesting they’re hard to put down. But here are a few that are easy to read and have great messages:
- Choosing Love by Heidi Johnston is a short book for young women about relationships, dating, and marriage from a Christian perspective. I read it in a day and thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson, one of my favorite nonfiction books ever, is about creativity and community. Even if you’re not a writer or artist or musician, read this book. Each chapter is about a different topic, so you can read one and then take a break and come back later.
- Death by Living by N.D. Wilson (another of my favorites) is a short, meaningful book about life, death, mortality, and immortality. Please read it.
Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain—they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter.
how to get these books
If you’re like me, your library is probably closed. Here are some free and cheap ways to get these books to read:
- Try a free trial of Audible and download audiobooks, or stream them for free (as long as schools are closed) — and check out Sarah Mackenzie’s list of current audiobook deals.
- Stream audiobooks and read ebooks for free on Hoopla.
- Use Libby or Overdrive for free ebooks.
- Listen to free public domain audiobooks with Librivox.
- Get cheap and free ebooks from the Kindle Store.
now, go read!
I wish you all the best during this insane time, and I hope you find a good book to help you through it.
Let me know if you read any of these books and what you think of them! And if you don’t read any of these ones, what book(s) are you reading?
Until next time!