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What to read while the coronavirus keeps you in the house

Here are the books to catch up on while you practice social distancing

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

In this era of enforced physical alienation, or as it’s more commonly known, social distancing, it can be an unexpected comfort to delve into a novel that’s all about alienation. Enter Real Life, the debut novel from Brandon Taylor, a story about a black, queer man from Alabama who is working toward a biochemistry degree in a setting that is overwhelmingly straight and white. Drawn from Taylor’s own experiences (before he turned to writing, Taylor himself was a biochemistry researcher), Real Life provides a blistering portrait of a place that is governed as much by small, human pettiness as it is by lofty ideals of logic, objectivity and distance.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestselling novel has been adapted for Hulu.

Blair Imani’s Making Our Way Home is a book that’s ideal for parents who are still reading to their kids and now have even more time than usual to do so.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The adaptation stars Kerry Washington as Mia, Reese Witherspoon as Elena and Lu Huang as Bebe. The screen adaptation is just as engrossing as the book. So if you can’t wait for the rest of the episodes to be released to find out how everything ends, the source material is available in digital and dead tree formats.

Kindred by Octavia Butler (graphic novel adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings)

What’s a global pandemic without a little dystopian literature? Kindred, first published in 1979, has long been a science fiction classic. Octavia Butler’s tale, which combines time travel with slave narrative, follows a writer named Dana who shuttles between 1976 Los Angeles and antebellum Maryland, where she meets her ancestors. Though Butler fans have been longing for a screen adaptation for ages, it hasn’t happened. Damian Duffy and John Jennings have translated it into a graphic novel, though, making it ideal for school-aged kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s a perfect prologue for those curious about Antebellum, the upcoming thriller starring Janelle Monáe.

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream by Blair Imani

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream is another book that’s ideal for parents who are still reading to their kids and now have even more time than usual to do so. With illustrations by Rachelle Baker, the book provides a bridge between grade school history and Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Blair Imani charts how geographical shifts from South to North and rural to urban influenced the major arts, cultural and social movements of the 20th century, all the way up to the dawn of hip-hop.

The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen by Nella Larsen

With Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga starring in an upcoming adaptation of Passing, Nella Larsen’s novel from the Harlem Renaissance, this is an opportune time to acquaint yourself with Larsen’s work. The Complete Collection includes Passing, Quicksand and her short stories. “Literature at its best is a prescription. And the best writers imagine us all free,” Marita Golden writes in the forward. As we hunker down, the liberated women of Larsen’s repertoire beckon safely, and bravely, toward something else.

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the culture critic for The Undefeated. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts, and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism, and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on black life.