Quarantine Countdown Vol. 3: The best books to be reading while stuck in your home


Don’t worry, I understand. TV shows and movies just aren’t really your thing. You read our two previous articles and just couldn’t find something that piqued your interest. I know how you feel. Sometimes one just wants to curl up with a good book by the fire and not be distracted by the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Even though we might not “technically” be in full quarantine mode anymore, reducing the seemingly infinite hours of free time, at some point you’ll be left with nothing to do except dust off that old novel that’s been sitting on your shelf for four years after you got it for your birthday. And although that novel may underwhelm you, I have come up with a list of the best books to be reading while (semi) stuck in your home that will surely satisfy. 

Just like the other articles, I will be doing three separate lists for children, teens, and adults. However, feel free to check out any of the books I list here, so long as you feel they are appropriate.



Grades K-3:


5. Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne

I tried to exclude series that are extremely popular, as to not provide books that have already been read. However, the sheer amount of books in the Magic Tree House series is so vast that it can provide days of entertainment for young children. The story follows Jack and Annie, brother and sister who come across a tree house filled with books. But when they open the books and wish that they could experience the stories for themselves, magic ensues turning their wish into reality. There are plenty of fond memories among early 2010s children curling up on the Reading Rug in 2nd grade and diving into the world of Magic Tree House. But putting aside nostalgia, the series is a sure fire hit for any young child delving into the world of reading. 


4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (along with many other stories written by him)

“The Giving Tree”…there is so much to be said about this book. It is not only a staple of literature but in general, it’s simply a good book. Some schools require this one to be read in elementary school, but if you have not it is highly recommended you do. It is a surprisingly powerful tale about a tree who gives everything to a boy who eventually grows up. This book isn’t really that much of a read in terms of page length and time. In fact, the book will probably take all of 5 minutes to read. But the themes of the story are why I am recommending this book. It is so powerful and a really good tool to teach kids about selflessness. And as a bonus, all the other poems and stories written by Shel Silverstein are equally as powerful, but “The Giving Tree” comes to mind as the most prominent one. 


Grades 3-6:


3. Percy Jackson Series, Magnus Chase Series, Kane Chronicles Series, Heroes of Olympus Series, Trials of Apollo Series, etc. by Rick Riordan 

As said before, I tried to exclude series that were so popular that everyone has read them. While I am not totally certain if kids in grades 3-6 still read Rick Riordan, I deemed it necessary to include this staple of many childhoods. Rick Riordan creates stories revolving around various mythologies, whether being the gods of Olympus (i.e. Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, etc.) or the Norse gods (Odin, Thor, Loki), all centering around one, or a group of, purely fictional characters from the mind of Riordan. These characters must navigate their way through the worlds of these gods, often discovering powers within themselves as well. The most well-known and first of these series’ is the Percy Jackson series, the story of a teen with ADHD in New York discovering that he has an unusual relationship with water. Not only are these series’ extremely entertaining, with multiple spin offs creating more in-depth and fascinating worlds, but the books are also extremely informative regarding old religions and mythologies. Nevertheless, these books will help any child in grades 3-6, and even beyond, cure their boredom. 


2. The Lemonade War Series by Jacqueline Davies

“The Lemonade War” series is another one of those must-reads in this age group. “The Lemonade War” follows the story of Jessie and Evan Treski. The siblings are usually pretty close. But when Jessie skips the third grade, moving into Evan’s grade, Evan worries that Jessie will mess things up with his friends. He explodes on Jessie, with the argument eventually transforming into a high-stakes wager, all riding on who can sell the most lemonade in the last five days before school starts. The other books follow up on Evan and Jessie’s adventures from discovering a bell thief to staging a mock classroom trial to find justice. The plots of the novels are simple and concise, providing a very viable outlet of entertainment for children. 


1. Holes by Louis Sachar 

Before beginning, be forewarned that this book is for kids who are more mature in the age group. It delves into topics of death and racism. I would recommend that kids reading this be at least in fifth grade, if not sixth. “Holes” follows the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is wrongfully accused of theft and is sent to a juvenile detention center named Camp Green Lake. Stanley believes that his wrongful accusation is attributed to the fact that his family is extremely unlucky. Throughout the book, we discover the origin of this unlucky streak, the friendship between Stanley and a boy named Zero, and the real reason why the warden is having the boys dig so many holes in the ground. The story is gripping and intriguing even for kids older than the specified age group. I would even go so far as to recommend this book to most children in middle school, regardless of grade. 




5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

“The Chronicles of Narnia” is a classic series but recently I feel that it hasn’t been given the recognition it deserves by the younger generations. Therefore, I am here to provide a reminder of this fantastic set of stories. “The Chronicles of Narnia” originally follow Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, but as the series moves on some of the central characters gradually change. In the first and most popular book “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” the siblings discover a wardrobe in the house of their new caretaker, the eccentric WWII scientist Professor Kirk, that transports them into a new world, Narnia. There they meet Aslan the lion, Mr. Tumnus the faun, and the White Witch and are sent on an adventure of a lifetime. This story is so complex and interesting and the relationship between the siblings feels very genuine. I highly recommend it to anybody who is having trouble finding a fantasy series other than Harry Potter. 


4. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee 

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is arguably the most recognized and critically acclaimed book ever created (and also my favorite book). Although technically the book was a rough draft of the iconic story, “Go Set A Watchman” is an unofficial sequel to “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It follows the story of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, and her return to the town of Maycomb, Alabama as an adult. As she continues her stay, she soon discovers her father and role model, Atticus Finch, seems to be going against all the ideals that he had instilled in her as a young child. The ideals of freedom and equality for all races. Although the book is not as popular due to the radical shift in character for Atticus, it is still very enjoyable and provides some insight as to how Harper Lee intended the story to possibly play out. 

Note: “Go Set A Watchman” delves into some pretty serious topics of discrimination, racism, and prejudice against black people. Please consider this before reading. 


3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“Fahrenheit 451” is an ironic choice for this list, the reason being that the novel is focused around a futuristic world where books have been banned. In a world dominated by television and other technologies, books are now being burned by firefighters. The story follows Guy Montag, a loyal fireman who begins to question the reasons behind burning books. The book was also adapted as a movie version starring Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, Sofia Boutella, and Lily Singh. 


2. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 

What if the Earth was destroyed to make room for an interplanetary highway? “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” follows the story of Arthur Dent, an Earthman who is saved by his friend Ford Perfect seconds before the Earth is destroyed in place of an interplanetary highway. Arthur, Ford, and other friends he meets travel through the universe compiling information for Ford’s book, The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I will admit, the concept is a little “wacky” and had me questioning whether the science fiction was a little too outlandish. When I read it however, the outlandishness of the science fiction made the book comical, and also somewhat deep. Without giving too much of the plot away, the book dives into questions like what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Nevertheless, it is a highly recommended read and has a very intriguing plot. 


1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 

Let me preface this recommendation by saying that out of all five of the books listed in the teen section, this one contains the most vulgarity and inappropriate humor on the list. However, if that does not bother you “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is a must-read. Junior, a budding cartoonist, is a native American living on an Indian reservation. He realizes that he must go to an all-white school in order to pursue his dreams. However, resentment in both his fellow Indians and his new white peers grows as feelings of betrayal and race create a hostile environment both on the reservation and off of it. It is a very enlightening story about the experience of minorities being placed in new situations and how they eventually are able to cope and find their own path. 




5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 

The worker’s commute to New York City by train is all too familiar in Pelham. But what if you caught a glimpse of something unfathomable, even something dangerous as you whizzed by? “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins follows the commute of Rachel Watson, a recently divorced alcoholic who fantasizes over the life of a couple she sees everyday on her commute. A perfect, almost ideal couple she deems to be Jess and Jason. But when Rachel catches a troubling truth about their lives, she can’t help but get involved, entangling herself in the lives of everyone involved for better or worse. The movie adaptation, starring Emily Blunt, is just as intense as the novel which will have you in awe at the relatable characters, but also shocking twists. 


4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

If you’ve read “The Girl on the Train”, and begin to read “Gone Girl” you might realize that the two books are fairly similar. And although this is somewhat the case, the reason I am not grouping the two together is because the stories wildly diverge. Without giving too much away regarding the differences in the two stories, “Gone Girl” follows the story of Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliot. When Amy goes missing, a police investigation ensues that questions both the reliability of Nick and also the scavenger hunt that Amy left behind for their wedding anniversary. But is there more to the investigation than meets the eye? The story is one of the most gripping tales in literary history and surely will leave a lasting impression. Similar to “The Girl on the Train”, “Gone Girl” was also transported from the page to the big screen in 2014, starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Neil Patrick Harris.


3. First Came Us by Rachel Cullen (Pelham resident and author)

“Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train” may be great books, but what they don’t have is an author who lives right here in Pelham. Rachel Cullen, a fellow Pelham resident, has written “First Came Us”, a provocative story about the realities of balancing the struggles of raising children and their own marriage. It follows Jack and Ellie Miller, a married couple living with three children in an idyllic Connecticut town. When they and their children begins to struggle with their own problems, including their sixteen-year old daughter Sydney slowly transitioning into adulthood, Jack and Ellie must pull themselves and their family back together. Cullen has also written three other novels titled: “The Way I’ve Heard It Should Be”, “Second Chances”, and “Only Summer.”


2. Lights Out Summer: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik (Pelham resident, author, and crucial part of the Pelham Examiner) 

Okay, you’ve read “First Came Us” and loved every word of it. Amazing, but now you want to see what other Pelham talent is out there waiting to be discovered. Well look no further because I present to you “Lights Out Summer: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery” by Rich Zahradnik. Zahradnik is not only a Pelham resident and author, but he happens to be a crucial part of both the Colonial Times and our very own Pelham Examiner. His book follows journalist Coleridge Taylor as he follows the untold stories of victims being overshadowed by another serial killer, Son of Sam. Just as he is closing in on the story of a young black woman’s muder, the July 13-14 blackout occurs. Now, Taylor and his girlfriend, PI Samantha Callahan, must follow the clues through the looting, destruction, and darkness. “Lights Out Summer” is the fourth installment in the Coleridge Taylor Series also including “Last Words”, “Drop Dead Punk”, and “A Black Sail”.


1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 

One of the most powerful tales in recent memory, the story of “The Kite Runner” tells the story of Amir, a wealthy Afghan boy in the 1960s, and his best friend and servant, Hassan. The story follows Amir and Hassan through their childhood, through the turmoil of the 70’s in Afghanistan, and the divergence of the two children as they grow older. It is really difficult to explain the emotional poignancy of the book without revealing the plot, but the relationship between Amir, Hassan, and their respective fathers brought tears to my eyes and I trust it will do the same to you. 


So there you have it. The (semi) quarantine countdown list for the best books to be reading while stuck in your home. If you have any suggestions as to what should be listed next, feel free to leave a comment down below!