Quarantine Reads: 22 New Books to Help You Hunker Down

Hopefully you’re fortunate enough to have more time to read lately — even if it’s a little more time than you were thinking it would be. As we try to ride out this pandemic and flatten the curve, the Parnassus booksellers have reading, too, and April brings a brand-new batch of handpicked favorites that, if our doors were open, we’d love to put in your hand. But as always, we’d be just as happy to ship any of these your way!

Recommended by Karen

The Everlasting: A Novel Cover ImageThe Everlasting

This ambitious book takes place during four time periods in Rome over two millennia. I love how she re-imagines life in these different centuries and the way she intertwines each story.

Recommended by Karen

Enter the Aardvark Cover ImageEnter the Aardvark

Young, handsome, rich and riding high in polling, Congressman Alexander Paine (R) has everything going for him when a stuffed aardvark shows up on his doorstep. Not just any aardvark, but one taxidermied by highly respected Titus Downing in the late 19th century. The story alternates between these two men’s lives and the secret they share, giving readers a very entertaining ride.

Recommended by Kay

The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities Trilogy #1) Cover ImageThe City We Became

If you’ve read Jemisin before, I probably don’t have to convince you to grab this exciting start to her new series. You know she’s incredible. For the newcomers: The City We Became is a unique modern fantasy in which the soul of New York takes the form of six human avatars to face an otherworldly threat. Jemisin’s knack for strong character voices and her vibrant descriptions of New York truly make the story sing.

Recommended by Nell

How Much of These Hills Is Gold: A Novel Cover ImageHow Much of These Hills Is Gold

I think I was barely three pages into this debut novel when I first lapsed into profanities from how beautifully C Pam Zhang writes. Two siblings, Sam and Lucy, travel through the Western territory after their prospector father dies, and they search for the right place to bury him proper. Mythic, musical, fierce — this is a Western unlike any you’ve ever seen.

Recommended by Steve

New Waves: A Novel Cover ImageNew Waves

Part mystery, part bildungsroman, part nostalgia cascade for a bygone era of the Internet full of pseudonymous file-swapping obsessives. Two friends, who happen to be the only people of color in a bro-ish startup culture, form a bond that’s broken by tragedy in this smart, observant book takes you through the weirdness of trying to be human in a world increasingly filled with invasive tech.

Recommended by Sissy

My Dark Vanessa: A Novel Cover ImageMy Dark Vanessa

Russell delves into psychological and sexual abuse that leaves a victim wondering whether they wanted the contact or not, wondering if they were abused or not. Vanessa’s inner thoughts about the power dynamic at play are messy and human. I cried as I cheered her on. The perfect novel for those who love Nabokov’s Lolita and those who hate it.

Recommended by Sissy

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel Cover ImageThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

Hendrix perfectly renders a Southern mother who constantly questions her self-worth and purpose. As all hell breaks loose in 1990s Charleston, this delicate flower learns to stand up for herself and save those she loves, even if it costs her her life and everything else.

Recommended by Chelsea

If I Never Met You: A Novel Cover ImageIf I Never Met You

When Laurie is dumped by her very long-term boyfriend, she hatches a plan with office hottie Jamie to get back at her ex. For Jamie, it shows that he’s mature enough to be considered for a huge promotion. Laurie is intelligent, fun, and nunapologetic about who she is; she is the perfect protagonist. This faux romance is the perfect read to distract you from everything that’s going on.

Recommended by Jordan

A Good Neighborhood: A Novel Cover ImageA Good Neighborhood

Valerie raises her biracial teenage son in Oak Hill, a tight-knit, “good” neighborhood. When the Whitmans, a “picture perfect” white family with money and status move in next door, worlds collide, secrets are revealed, and complicated relationships are formed. Fans of Little Fires Everywhere will love this emotionally complex novel, in which multiple characters’ stories are unraveled much like in Celeste Ng’s bestseller.

Recommended by Jordan

Cinderella and the Glass Ceiling: And Other Feminist Fairy Tales Cover ImageCinderella and the Glass Ceiling: And Other Feminist Fairy Tales

We all need a laugh these days! Check out these classic fairy tales you loved as children with a feminist reality check.

Recommended by Erin

Code Name Hélène: A Novel Cover ImageCode Name Hélène

They say truth is stranger than fiction. In this novel about Nancy Wake, a socialite who became a leader of the French Resistance, it’s also more thrilling. Nashville author Ariel Lawhon honors one of the most decorated women in WWII with a propulsive, action-packed rendering that captures the courage, intelligence, and heart of a hero who should be a household name. I can’t stop thinking about this book.

Recommended by Erin

Then the Fish Swallowed Him: A Novel Cover ImageThen the Fish Swallowed Him

This novel sucks you in like a story that relative of yours would tell. An uncle, maybe, who doesn’t bother telling it exactly like it happened. Still, you can’t stop listening. And eventually, you realize the stories are about something else entirely. This book is like that, if your uncle is Iranian, tells stories like Joseph Heller, and has some harrowing things to say about the power of the state on the soul.

Recommended by Kim

Untamed Cover ImageUntamed

Glennon’s signature brand of honesty, vulnerability and “you can also live this way” encouragement. There’s a reason all your friends are talking about this book. You’ll hold your head up a little higher after reading it. And you will buy copies for everyone you know.

Recommended by Kim

Wow, No Thank You.: Essays Cover ImageWow, No Thank You.: Essays

If the internet and Shrill (Sam wrote the episode with the infamous pool scene) have led you to Samantha Irby, welcome, we’ve been waiting for you. This is Sam’s third book and it’s my favorite. You’ll laugh out loud, you’ll read it twice, and you’ll buy it for all your friends.

Recommended by Kim

Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir Cover ImageRecollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir

This book is a coming-of-age story, a love letter to San Francisco, a love letter to women, and an injection of hope and encouragement to anyone fighting to be heard. Regular readers of Solnit will know that she meanders a little in her writing, and she does that in this book, but she sticks the landing and the end of the book is a powerful, must-read for all women continuing to live through the #MeToo era.

Recommended by Heather

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family Cover ImageHidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

If you have ever been touched by anyone with mental illness you will be struck down by the overwhelming burdens the Galvin family faces. Woven in with stories of the family are insights in to the research and leading “causes” and treatments for schizophrenia over a period of more than fifty years. Honest, balanced, heartbreaking and hopeful.

Recommended by Kim

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story Cover ImageNobody Will Tell You This But Me: A true (as told to me) story

Do you have a favorite grandma? Do you like to laugh? Good news, this is the book for you! I laughed, I cried, I read it in one sitting.

Recommended by Kathy

Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age Cover ImageWomen Rowing North

How to accept yourself, body, mind and spirit, as you navigate the challenges and joys of growing older

Recommended by Ben

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder Cover ImageOne Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder

These days, we could all use a reorientation toward wonder. This posthumous essay collection gleans revelation from tiny moments of beauty, childhood memories, human courage, and the glory within the everyday. Filled with kestrels and otters, brothers and fathers, hummingbirds and hearts — plus one huge sturgeon — his prose shines with humor, compassion, hard-won truths.

Recommended by Kim

Save Yourself Cover ImageSave Yourself

Laugh out loud funny. Fans of Cameron’s stand up comedy will love this book. Also, spoiler alert: great life advice at the end.

Recommended by Steve

Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land Cover ImageSpirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land

Álvarez takes on indigenous rights, immigrant experience, working-class grit, shame, family, masculinity — all wrapped up in the tale of an epic marathon down the Western edge of our continent. His writing is observant and tender, and in light of how we are waking up to the conditions of so-called “essential workers” — like Álvarez’s parents, who work to harvest our food — especially urgent.

Recommended by Ben

To Make Room for the Sea Cover ImageTo Make Room for the Sea

These poems trace the transience of experience and memory, the limits and necessity of language, all while balancing the weight of loneliness and loss with the inertia of hope and awe. Clay has a knack for deft phrasing, for exploring inner vastness, for crafting last lines that stay with you long after the poems end.

First Editions Club: April Selection

Valentine: A Novel Cover ImageValentine: A Novel

Sometimes the aftermath of a crime is nearly as devastating as the crime itself. Valentine looks at how an entire town is divided by a single act of violence, and does so with such compassion it took my breath away. This is small town Texas in 1976, decades before the concept of #MeToo had been imagined. This is a world in which a girl is always suspect, especially a Mexican girl. This is a world in which women must decide if they are going to stand with another woman or turn against her in order to preserve the peace of their homes.

Elizabeth Wetmore’s deft narrative takes us through the divisions and alliances that surprise everyone involved. She reminds us of the implications of both silence and speaking up. With writing that that is fresh and extraordinarily beautiful, she reminds us that there is no such thing as an easy answer.

Into this uncertain time comes a novel that reminds us of the power of empathy and justice. It is riveting and important. We’ll all be talking about Valentine for a long time to come.

Yours in reading,
Catherine Bock
Inventory Manager

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too.

Book Club is on hold for now, at least the in-person version. Book Club Manager Kathy Schultenover has been practicing her Zoom skills, so stay tuned.