Real Page-turners

Houston Authors Share What They've Read While Social Distancing

We’ve got such a wonderful array of talent coming out of the Bayou City, it’s no surprise their recommendations are equally diverse.

By Emma Schkloven May 5, 2020

In time of distress, people seek comfort in all kinds of places. While some head for their kitchen cabinet to grab that XL-sized candy bar or turn to a favorite childhood movie, others find their escape in pages of prose. After all, there’s no better way to escape the scariness of the world around you (even as life begins to return to some semblance of normal) than by driving face first into a different one—metaphorically of course. Here's what some of our favorite Houston authors—both those who’ve carried Space City within their hearts as they’ve journeyed out into the world as well as those still residing in the Bayou City—have been reading while social distancing.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices, among others

"Circe by Madeline Miller. I love this complex feminist recreation of the myth of Circe the witch (the one who turned men into pigs, remember?) from the Odyssey, which, like most epics, is male-centric. This book with its beautiful descriptions and interesting reinterpretations of the old stories and characters is keeping me riveted. It is a wonderful escape from my daily challenges during the coronavirus crisis. But it is also a great book to learn from as a writer, since I am interested in re-telling the stories of Indian epics from a female point of view.

"Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Noah is so funny—that's what makes me love this book. I find myself laughing out loud at how he describes his adventures and challenges growing up as a mixed-race child in South Africa at a time when miscegenation was illegal. I love the character of his mother as well, a courageous, funny, no-nonsense woman. There are a lot of life-lessons in this book, but presented with humor—sometimes hilarious, sometimes dark. It's a great read at this time because it lets me escape into a different world but also puts my far smaller challenges into perspective.” 

Lynne Kelly, author of Song for a Whale

"It's been so hard to focus lately, but I've finally been able to get back to reading and writing. Usually I'm reading a few things at a time. I've started reading The Gulf: The Making Of An American Sea by Jack Davis, a fascinating read about the history and ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. In children's books, I recently read and loved Chirp by Kate Messner, about a girl who's trying to save her grandmother's cricket farm, and my next read is Count Me In by another Houstonian, Varsha Bajaj."

Attica Locke, author of Black Water Rising

"I've been on a COVID-19 reading winning streak. Right now, I'm finishing fellow Houston native Michael Arceneaux's book, I Don't Want to Die Poor. He is one of the funniest people I've ever read, and I echo his undying love for Pappadeaux, which he writes about frequently. Before that it was The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward, another Texan. This book is about a very dysfunctional family that goes on a cruise together—weird to read during a quarantine, but it also gave me a sense of adventure (from my couch). I also read The Resisters by Gish Jen, which is about a future America that's divided between those who are forced to produce and those who are forced to consume. It felt weirdly comforting to read about people in a dystopian existence who ultimately fight against the system."

Wayétu Moore, author of She Would Be King

"For leisure, my recent reads have included The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet, The House of Deep Water by Jeni MacFarland, and a reread of Yasunari Kawabata's The House of Sleeping Beauties, which I randomly pulled off my shelf last week and was relieved to be reacquainted with his work. I also finished a forthcoming novel by Sulaiman Addonia earlier this week—Silence is My Mother Tongue. The prose in those pages was just the antidote I needed."

Jia Tolentino, New Yorker writer and author of Trick Mirror: Reflections of Self-Delusion

"I spent the first month of quarantine reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall trilogy, having figured that the recent release of The Mirror and the Light was a good enough signal to finally get into these books. It was perfect isolation reading, once my brain started working enough to actually get absorbed in it: a nightly immersion in another version of history, and the vivid, transcendent everydayness of another time."

Buddy Wakefield, three-time slam world champion, author of A Choir of Honest Killers

“I'm beginning In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer, because his novel The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon just clocked in as my new favorite fiction novel (though, it's not a new book at all).

Kenneth Womack, author of Solid State: The Story of “Abbey Road” and the End of the Beatles

“For reasons that I am only beginning to understand, the pandemic has sent me on a nostalgic journey into my reading past, with several forays into historical nonfiction. I barreled through a second reading of Donald A. Davis’s Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor followed swiftly by a return voyage to Walter Lord’s Titanic opus A Night to Remember. In just the last week, I began rereading Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money, the classic true-crime story of murder and intrigue in River Oaks. All three books deal with death, but in their own ways; each title hails from a bygone era, when things seemed very different from our current unprecedented times."

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