TikTok, Animal Crossing, and Netflix are all undisputed winners in the race to attract Americans’ attention during this pandemic year. But apparently, we didn’t just turn to digital distractions (and yes, jigsaw puzzles) as we sheltered in place and sought alternatives to the dumpster fire that is the current news cycle. The New York Times recently reported that shoppers were tossing plenty of books, as well as beans and toilet paper, in their shopping carts at retailers like Target, Walmart, Costco, and other big-box stores this spring. It seems that reading old-fashioned, analog books was also a shelter-in-place thing. Perhaps there’s hope for 2020 after all.

In the spirit of celebrating this collective turn to the printed page, we asked Upshotters to tell us a little about the page turners they read this summer. Here are a few of their responses.

The Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennet

In this timely novel, we follow the lives of twin sisters as they take dramatically different paths. One learns to pass as a white woman; the other lives her life the way she was born—black. The book offers an interesting examination of the social constructs of race and identity and what those things mean for us as we live them out. I read the whole thing in two days. Highly recommend.


World War Z

by Max Brooks

In an effort to get over pandemic anxiety, why not read a book about one? This book takes the zombie genre and turns it on its head, removing the horror tropes and analyzing what would happen from a societal standpoint by breaking up the book in the form of fictional interviews.


The Numbers Game: Why Everything you Know About Soccer Is Wrong

by Chris Anderson

I love soccer, and then I heard about these two guys who broke down the stats and analyzed the game to show how/why certain soccer teams win versus other major sports, like the NBA. It’s fascinating! Quoting Amazon, “Moneyball meets Freakanomics.”


The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Because it’s an English story about holding back, and as Pink Floyd once sang, “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.”


Essential Muir: A Selection of John Muir’s Best Writings

by John Muir

Preservationist, naturalist, and founder of the Sierra Club and Yosemite National Park, Muir left his legacy on the landscape and on paper. Muir, surprisingly to me, had an incredible talent for describing something that you would just rather see and experience yourself: nature. Not an easy task. This book filled a void while we were all stuck inside.


Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

by Anne Lamott

A gift from my son and his girlfriend for my birthday this month. I really enjoyed it except for Lamott’s rants on George W. Bush!


My Year of Rest and Relaxation

by Ottessa Moshfegh

The latest novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors, it’s as wickedly, darkly hilarious and painful as one of Moshfegh’s previous brilliant novels, Eileen. There was something timely in being locked in pandemic isolation, reading about a young woman whose goal is to drug herself into sleeping for a year.


The Land of Stories

Series by Chris Colfer (A.K.A. Kurt from Glee)

I just knocked out all 6 of these. When you have a 9-year-old who spends a lot of time discussing the many facets of Fairytale Land, the only way to stay relevant at the dinner table is to dive in headfirst.


The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

by Kirk Wallace Johnson

If Wes Anderson wrote a true-crime novel! It’s the true story of a 20-year-old flutist who becomes obsessed with replicating Victorian fly-fishing lures, using feathers from rare and sometimes extinct birds. The problem: it’s expensive and sometimes illegal to get those feathers...an entertaining read!