Among the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the opportunity to set aside many of the high-paced distractions of modern life in favor of the simpler things we love. High on the list of many people’s stay-at-home activities: cracking that book they’d been meaning to get to.
For me, it was former Virginian-Pilot journalist Earl Swift’s haunting and brilliant Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Waterman of Vanishing Tangier Island (Dey Street Books), which was released in paperback early this year. Swift’s thoughtful account of the history and uncertain future of a community that is both uniquely secluded and highly exposed to the effects of our changing environment, was on a list of recommendations from the staff of Prince Books in downtown Norfolk when I reached out to them a few months ago. It turned out to be a timely one; the people of Tangier know something of a sense of isolation and end times.
COVID-19 brought a wave of interest in books about pandemics in general and on topics like cooking, bird watching and gardening, says Prince Books owner Sarah Pishko. Following the death of George Floyd, readers turned in droves to racial justice themes. Her shop remained open, offering curbside service and responding to demand brought on by Amazon’s suspension of book sales and facilitated in part by the timely establishment of a new website called Bookshop.org, which partners with independently owned bookstores across the country.
Listed below is a collection of more recent and soon-to-be-released titles, along with publishers’ descriptions, recommended by Pishko and her team. You can learn more about Prince Books at Prince-Books.com or by calling 757-622-9223.
Pull of the Stars: A Novel
By Emma Donoghue
At the height of the 1918 Great Flu, nurse Julia Power tends to expectant mothers quarantined in the maternity ward. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love, by the bestselling author of The Wonder and ROOM. (Little, Brown and Company)
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir
By Natasha Trethewey
This chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather is also a moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of tragedy. (Ecco Press)
By Helen Macdonald
This is a collection of Macdonald’s best-loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep. (Grove Press)
By David Mitchell
The long-awaited new novel from the author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, tells the story of the strangest British band you’ve never heard of, emerging from the psychedelic scene of the 1960s and embarking on a meteoric journey. (Random House)
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Mixing biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews—with history, memoir and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude’s endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. (Crown Publishing Group)
Sex and Vanity
By Kevin Kwan
The author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with the glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men: the WASPY fiancé of her family’s dreams and George Zao, the man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with. (Doubleday Books)
By Jill McCorkle
In this deeply layered and masterful novel, McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father, mother or child piecing together the world around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory. (Algonquin Books)
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
By Isabel Wilkerson
The Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. (Random House)
The Lions of Fifth Avenue
By Fiona Davis
In nationally best-selling author Fiona Davis’s latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women, essayist Laura Lyons and library curator Sadie Donovan, to pick up the pieces. (Dutton Books)