Five Books to Read While Stuck at Home

The five books recommended in this review. Photograph by Johanna Seng ('21).

For those who constantly find themselves nose deep in their Instagram feeds or who let the hours slip away whilst playing Halo during this stay-at-home order, some good old-fashioned pleasure-reading can offer a welcome respite.

In a world where anyone can publish a book and many have, it can be difficult to find quality literature that caters to your interests, so here at the Eagle Eye we’ve compiled a short list of novels in various genres and lengths in the hopes of tempting some of you poor, isolated souls into indulging the imagination and exercising the mind with a book.

* Titles with asterisks are available at the HBA library.

Title:The Knife of Never Letting Go *
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: science fiction
Page count: 512
Synopsis: In a world where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, how do you go about keeping a secret that could destroy life as you know it? The Knife of Never Letting Go follows Todd, a teen resident of Prentisstown, where there are no secrets and no women… that is, until Todd stumbles across a lone girl who seems to know something he doesn’t. Readers journey with Todd across a dystopian world as he flees from a sinister group of Prentisstown leaders and searches for the truth.
Why I recommend this book: The Knife of Never Letting Go is fairly fast paced and subverts the clich´d teen dystopian plot adopted by too many authors in the Hunger Games and Divergent era, instead following a unique, layered story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Todd possesses a likeable boyish charm that all but forces readers to cheer him on throughout the novel. I’d suggest this book especially to fans of The Giver and The Maze Runner.


Title: Looking For Alaska *
Author: John Green
Genre: young adult fiction
Page count: 221
Synopsis: Upon entering a new school, Culver Creek, high school junior Miles Halter finds himself falling head over heels for resident heartbreaker Alaska Young, clever, beautiful, and a walking contradiction. As Alaska draws him into her world of cruelty, tenderness, and wild gaiety, Miles begins to suspect he might never be the same, for better or for worse.
Why I recommend this book: Looking For Alaska is a personal favorite of mine. Unlike many novels targeted at the young adult audience, Green does nothing to soften the heightened emotions that come with infatuation and characterizes Miles’ inner dialogue with a refreshing honesty. As in real life, each character is morally ambiguous—Looking For Alaska is a perfect example of how doing something bad doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person, just like doing something good doesn’t necessarily make you a good person. I’d recommend this book to fans of the coming-of-age genre. It’s also a good choice if you don’t really consider yourself a “reader;” the way in which Green writes strikes me as a casual, easy to consume conversation between author and reader.


Title: All the Light We Cannot See *
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: historical fiction
Page count: 530
Synopsis: All the Light We Cannot See subtly weaves the stories of two young individuals into the larger overarching tragedy of WWII, revealing both the inalienable goodness and evil underlying human nature. Blind Marie-Laure flees her home in Paris succeeding the Nazi occupation and goes to live with her uncle in a little house by the sea, where she spends her days aiding the French resistance via radio broadcast. Werner Pfennig, orphaned at a young age and fated to live out the rest of his days laboring in a coal mine, finds himself recruited to a Nazi academy due to his preternatural skill at radio repair. Though on different sides of the war, the two teens meet at an unlikely crossroads and form an unexpected bond.
Why I recommend this book: All the Light We Cannot See is my number one favorite. It’s heavy hitting and immersive, written emotionally without being overly dramatic. Werner and Marie-Laure’s bond is subtle but touching, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste and spurring the reader into contemplation. I suggest this book to anyone who is prepared to commit to a heavier read and who needs a reason to cry.


Title: Leviathan *
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: science fiction
Page count: 434
Synopsis: International crisis meets steampunk in this imaginative retelling of WWI, set in a world of conflict characterized by genetically engineered beasts and huge mechanical war machines. Leviathan chronicles the unlikely intersection of two lives: Alek, the son of recently assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, and Deryn, a young Scottish woman masquerading as a man in the British Air Service. Following a fateful turn of events, both find themselves aboard the Leviathan, a fabricated whale airship, one as a prisoner and one as a midshipman as tensions mount rapidly in the Western hemisphere.
Why I recommend this book: As someone who is a fan of both modern world history and classic sci-fi, Leviathan was almost the perfect read. Westerfeld is a master of multilayered characterization and believable inner dialogue– I especially admired his ability to write a strong yet realistic female protagonist. Deryn’s determination to forge her own path coupled with Alek’s understanding of tradition and its importance make for a compelling dynamic, and the extremely detailed descriptions of an alternative, science forward Europe challenge readers to think conceptually from an international perspective.


Title: The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Genre: fantasy
Page count: 360
Synopsis: Set in 19th century Malaysia, The Ghost Bride offers a refreshing new narrative detailing the supernatural journey of Li Lan, the daughter of a wealthy estate owner gone to seed. With her family struggling both socially and financially, Li Lan’s father receives a strange offer from the Lim family, rich and influential in their province. The Lims want Li Lan to wed their son, Lim Tian Ching, with only one catch… Lim Tian Ching is dead. Li Lan quickly finds herself entangled in carefully shrouded family secrets, old magic, and the ire of the dead as she races to escape Lim Tian Ching’s reach from beyond the grave and save her family from devastation.
Why I recommend this book: Although with a title like The Ghost Bride, one might expect this book to be silly and trite, it is anything but. Choo does a fantastic job of bringing colonial Malaysia and Chinese tradition to life in an inventive manner, simultaneously educating and entertaining readers. Li Lan is clever and candid, easily likeable and relatable, and her voice serves as a potent mouthpiece, shedding light onto the unspoken rules of Malaysian society and a woman’s role in it. The moment I picked up this book, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages until I had inhaled the entire thing three hours later. Each twist and turn in the plot had me on the edge of my seat, so if you like underrated traditional folklore, fast paced action, and a little bit of romance as a bonus, by all means, pick up The Ghost Bride.

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