One expat’s quarantine reading list

May 20, 2020 | 3 comments

I have always been a reader, taught to read by my mother before I started school in 1935, and have continued to read, although not as ardently as some. So, in these times of  quarantine at home, I offer some of the books I have read over the past couple of years, that I rate in the range of very good to superb. I hope it will be useful.


The Murmer Of Bees by Sofia Segovia.  Set in Northern Mexico during their civil war the story, drawing on indigenous tales, of a days-old infant found abandoned under a bridge.

A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabel Allende.  A Spanish partisan in the battle against Franco ends up in Chile with the help of poet Pablo Neruda, who was also a Chilean diplomat.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. An American Indian, the author’s grandfather, in a successful battle in the 50’s to save his tribe from losing government help.

Milkman by Anna Burns. A young woman caught in a conflict between two dictatorial factions, each having absolute control of their areas.

Flights by Olga Tokarguk. A story of a trip to a Greek Island and the sudden disappearance of a wife and child.

Gateway To The Moon by Mary Morris. A young man in New Mexico in the 1900’s, learns that he and most of his tiny town are Jews, descended from the Jews who escaped to Mexico when the Spanish tried to eliminate the Jews in the late 1400’s.

The Authenticity Project by Claire Poole. A notebook travels from London to the South Pacific and return, meeting many interesting people who find their lives changed by it.

The Bird Summons by Leila Aloulela. Four Muslim women, settled in London, take a trip to a storied abandoned castle in Scotland.

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles.  An aristocrat, instead of being shot by the Bolsheviks, is sentenced to life imprisonment in the upper class Metrepol Hotel.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  About a 16 year old blind girl in France during WWII.  Gripping.


Words In Pain by Olga Jacoby. Set in 1909 in London, the letters of a dying woman to her doctor about life, religion, how she deals with her impending death. Compelling.

Reflections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit. The story of her life, so far, by one of my favorite authors.

Figuring by Maria Popova. Fascinating stories about a wide range of people, their relationships and accomplishments, some famous, some not.

Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm by Stephen Harrod Buhner. Not only up to date information about plant intelligence and communication but in addition a guide on how we humans can tap into that world.

Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of A Good Society by Nicholas A. Christakis.  A study of societies, primitive, modern, big, small, visionary, inadvertent, with conclusions as to the necessary ingredients of a good society.

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Words that help identify us, such as American, black, Catholic, Caucasian, end up, with the accretions supplied by culture, making us prisoners of that label. It is time to stop it.

The Road To Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder. A Yale historian outlines the things we need to watch out for to enable us to keep our democratic system.

Alienated America by Timothy P. Carney.  A deeper look into the divisions between the red and blue.

Twilight of the American Century by Andrew J. Bacevich.  An insightful and critical look at recent American military adventures.

A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik. An eloquent rendering of what a pure liberalism consists of, and what it does not.

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves by Frans de Waal.  By an author who has been studying primates for 40 years opens with a heartwarming story and then brings us up to date on what science knows about animal (and human) emotions.

During your time of staying at home, may you find some good reading, here or elsewhere.

Dave Nelson

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