Top 4 Quarantine Reads from Mac and Jack

With the world in self-isolation, people are turning to various forms of entertainment more than ever before, leaning heavily on streaming services, video-on-demand (VOD) releases, and YouTube for their daily fixes.

With the world in self-isolation, people are turning to various forms of entertainment more than ever before, leaning heavily on streaming services, video-on-demand (VOD) releases, and YouTube for their daily fixes. Given the ease with which one can experience screen fatigue, perhaps we should take a step back, unplug, and pick up a good book, instead of watching Netflix’s next Tiger King-esque phenomenon.

Whether it be a bilingual coming-of-age story or even a brief introduction to finance, we hope books provide you a much-needed breather amidst the constant stream of notifications and news updates. For those of you who can’t remember the last time you read for leisure, now is a great time to dive into a book of your choice—not one assigned by your English teacher. And if you don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Without further ado, here are our top five books to read in quarantine: The Martian Chronicles: The first rocket departs from Ohio in January 1999. The launch produces enough heat to melt all the snow in Ohio, creating a temporary “rocket summer.” The first rocket never returns to Earth. A second rocket lands on Mars. Then a third. The Martians, a sophisticated, telepathic race, kill all their would-be colonizers. A year after the third rocket disappears, a fourth expedition proves successful. Chickenpox and other diseases carried by the first expedition devastate the Martians, pushing the population to the brink of extinction. Their sprawling cities, replete with elegant art and advanced technology, are left eerily abandoned, and the few surviving Martians struggle to stop the new Martians: humans. Ray Bradbury’s episodic novel not only delineates mankind’s gradual colonization of Mars, but also questions cross-cultural interactions and earth men’s “talent for ruining big, beautiful things.” Published in 1950, the collection indirectly addresses imperialism while tackling a larger themes of exploration and community. Bradbury brings signature imagination, dexterity, and a gift for emotion to his work. The result is an interesting, poignant collection that remains a landmark in science-fiction and literature. Read it for: Cultured aliens, perfectly flawed characters, and Bradbury’s imaginative writing. An all time favorite.

The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento): Carlos Ruiz Zafón masterfully blends genres to create a novel which includes elements of historical fiction, thriller, mystery, and a touch of magical realism. Ruiz Zafón crafts a story for teenagers and adults rooted in the importance of childhood dreams and experiences. The main protagonist, Daniel Sempere, runs a bookshop in Barcelona with his father, instilling in Sempere a love for stories. After reading an extraordinary novel, Sempere seeks out the author’s other works, only to find out that they no longer exist. Sempere quickly realizes that in order to unfold this mystery, he needs to delve into the author’s life. Despite his insatiable curiosity, Daniel acts with the same uncertainty and self doubt to which any teenager can relate. In addition, Ruiz Zafón’s novel tours the reader through Barcelona’s geography and social dynamics in a post-Spanish Civil War society controlled by Francisco Franco’s fascists. Thus, Ruiz Zafón includes themes specific to 1940s Barcelona as well as exploring Sempere’s first crush, first love, and relationship to friends and family, while maintaining a brilliant sense of humor which balances the novel’s weightier moments. Read it for: well-timed humor, brilliant Spanish-to-English translation, and a unique coming-of-age story.

Exhalation: Another collection of science-fiction short stories, Exhalation fits quarantine perfectly. Although Ted Chiang’s stories are not connected, they all deliberate similar themes. The titular story adopts a world of machine-like humans and mechanical, though not infallible, memories. “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” details virtual socialization, evolving relationships, and even digital pets that are substituted for children. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” imagines that humans record every moment automatically and portrays an old man’s fight to protect humans’ apparently necessary forgetfulness. Exhalation repeatedly questions what makes us human but separates itself from similarly-focused books by forecasting how technological pressures might change humanity. The old man aiming to save forgetfulness tries a new tech product that will flawlessly automate memory, and surprisingly, he discovers that he likes it. Warped by new technology, he rejects his initial evaluation of humanity’s quintessence. During this period of social distancing, the role of technology in our everyday lives has become increasingly prevalent. All we have is virtual socialization right now, and Chiang’s tales concern how shifting to mostly digital interaction might change us. Parts of Exhalation lack standout characters and can feel tedious, but at its best, it’s a hauntingly gorgeous consideration of what constitutes humanity and how that might change. Read it for: Stunning creativity, infrequent passages about free will, and to simply feel more human.

Boomerang: Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short, possesses the rare ability to make virtually anything entertaining. Boomerang tackles classic, exciting subjects like the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and European sovereign debt. Under Lewis’s pen, however, those topics are lucid and fascinating—even to people with little to no interest in finance. Lewis whisks his readers around the world on a tour of fiscal ruins from the 2008 financial crisis. He visits the monks who triggered Greece’s financial collapse—seriously—before explaining why everyone was so afraid of Greece defaulting on its $400 billion debt. He flies to Germany and investigates why their taxpayers are so reluctant to continue bailing out other countries they regard as irresponsible. Irish real estate deals, Iceland’s fishing traditions, and British banks are also featured. Lewis’s knack for shrewd judgement, witty quips, and humorous caricatures remains a constant in each setting. He calls tax evasion the national sport in Greece, pokes fun at how Germans are “obsessed with cleanliness and order yet harbor a secret fascination with filth and chaos,” and highlights Icelanders’ “feral streak.” The crude generalizations are tongue-in-cheek, and he comes down equally hard on his fellow greedy Americans. Hysterical, real stories combined with comprehensible explanations of finance make Boomerang a worthwhile read. Read it for: Shrewd analysis, introduction to finance, and gut-shaking laughter.

Some other books to read: A Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry The Plains by Gerald Murnane Pastoralia by George Saunders The Sympathizer by Viet Than Nguyen The Dispatches by Michael Herr Normal People by Sally Rooney I, Claudius by Robert Graves The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan Dying Every Day by James Romm

Norwegian Wood: Haruki Murakami’s breakout novel documents the first-hand account of Toru Watanabe, a young man reflecting on his college days. Set in late 1960s Tokyo, Murakami’s coming of age story navigates Watanabe’s struggles with his sexuality, loss, and sudden responsibility while focusing on his relationships with two contrasting women. Norwegian Wood manages to wrap bits of philosophy and nostalgic reflection around its engrossing story; for example, Watanabe constantly ponders over the “how” and “why” of life. Instead of creating an annoying or overwrought main character, Murakami presents the narrator’s meditations on life in a positive light, transforming him into an insightful, irresistible protagonist. Wantanabe’s attempts to make sense of his experiences and his emotional core form a likeable character bearing the depth of a living person. Murakami brings readers along Wantanabe’s journey to adulthood, animating his narrator like few other authors can. Read it for: School environment, philosophy, and nuanced, compelling romance.

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