I hope everyone is having an enjoyable quarantine. As we all figure out our new routines in these changing times, be it at a home desk or a couch lounge, a good book is never a bad idea. We asked the Oppy Staff for some of their favorite reads to get some new voices in your head as you navigate self-isolation.
Conor Clark: VP of Marketing & Relations
A bit on the nose here, but Camus is a rockstar. Seriously, him and Donald Glover sit atop my life idols list. Not only does it capture the feelings many of us are feeling in an incredibly eloquent (albeit understated) way, but it also sheds light on the hidden blessings of a monotonous life.
“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world, yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
The End of the Affair
This book. THIS BOOK. In under 200 pages, it throws you through the ringer of every possible self doubt and question of society, love, and religion. Set during the bombing of London, not a love triangle, but a love hypercube of sorts, it plays out in the most intimate and authentic of ways.
Confessions of the Fox
This book threw me for a loop. At times I felt like I was in a Gender Studies Class at Smith College, other times felt like playing Assassin’s Creed. It’s fun, raunchy, interesting, and everything you want in a book. Also, it provides a much needed perspective to Historical Fiction. I can promise, you will learn something coming away from this book.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
In my eyes, McCullers is one of the best voices of Southern Gothic. However, there is a reason your English teachers never assigned her. Touted “The Poet of Freakiness,” this freaky Queen has passages that will make you blush and clench tighter than a dogwood bud in January. Also, her and Flannery O’Connor had some serious beef. O’Connor once said of my gal, Carson, “some people just don’t have taste!” I will leave that for you to decide.
Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading
Marty Linsky and Ronald Heifetz
Alright, one business book slipped in to keep up appearances. We are all in positions where we are stepping up and taking on more responsibility or stepping outside of our comfort zones. This book lays out a number of ways to guide and protect yourself in uncharted waters. We could all use a lesson in crisis management right now.
Roberta Fiorito: Alumni Outreach
By Daniel Kehlmann
I just started this novel, translated from German and written by Daniel Kehlmann (Candide Award winner, among others), about a jester named Tyll growing up in a small 17th century German village in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War…and I’m already hooked. It has magic and enchantment, and the fascinating and vivid descriptions of Tyll’s life as a performance artist will seriously distract you from all the chaos that’s going on in real-life right now. He’s like “an X-rated Robin Hood,” writes The Guardian’s Marcel Theroux. It’s like The Musketeers meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez…what more could you want?!
Deirdre Keane: EiC
Before We Were Yours
By Lisa Wingate
Based on a real-life scandal, where a Memphis adoption agency kidnapped and sold poor rural children to wealthy families all over the U.S., this book is both sad and inspiring. Set in the 1930s and coming from the perspective of the eldest sibling, you hear the adventures of 5 children, who were abducted from a shantyboat on the Mississippi River, and then faced the Tennessee orphanage system. The book transitions between the 1930s to present day, when a young professional discovers her family’s involvement in this. Overall, an easy read and makes one feel as if they are being somewhat enlightened on the history of a black market adoption ring.
The Husband’s Secret
By Liane Moriarty
Written by the same author who wrote Big Little Lies, this book is also a page-turner. The premises are similar to Big Little Lies, as it follows three Australian women whose paths intertwine due to murder and cheating…as the title would insinuate. The moral of this book would be small decisions and cover-ups can lead to large negative outcomes.
By Martha Hall Kelly
Loosely based on a true story about WWII heroines, this book follows three women, who play very different roles during the war. The protagonists are a New York socialite, living in Paris and fighting for the cause; a German doctor, who is recruited by the Nazis to work in a concentration camp; and a young Polish girl in the underground resistance, who is sent to Ravensbruck. It is a riveting read about the story of three women with very different backgrounds, who did their part to bring justice to the disenfranchised.
Crazy Rich Asians: The Trilogy
By Kevin Kwan
I was a sucker for this trilogy. I’d like to think that it brought me into the world of how the 0.00000001% live. It simultaneously made me want to be a multi-billionaire, and thankful that I will never have to deal with the problems that extreme wealth brings. I’d recommend reading the books before watching the movie. NYU professor (I wonder how she’s dealing with classes transitioning to Zoom), Rachel discovers that her boyfriend is filthy rich (a girl can dream) when she travels to his home in Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. The books are narrated by multiple characters and will keep you both laughing and cringing.
David Kalan: Langone Managing Editor
And the Band Played On
By Randy Shilts
Believe it or not, America once faced a raging epidemic that was exacerbated by a lack of seriousness, bureaucratic infighting, and a baffling refusal to enact necessary public health restrictions.
I know. It’s hard to imagine.
Still, as I spend these weeks (Months? Years?) cooped up in my apartment, filling the void of live sporting events by setting up Madden ’99 to play against itself on my N64, I chose this as the appropriate time to finally dive into Shilts’ seminal work on the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Since starting it, I have been unable to put the book down. Shilts’ recounting of the first clues doctors discovered of an unknown, deadly virus reads like a fast-paced suspense novel, while he manages to seamlessly interweave the impact of the epidemic on scientific research, the response of the Reagan administration, and the social fabric of significant homosexual communities of the 1980s. Some graphic descriptions of the ravaged victims left in AIDS’ wake are not for the faint of heart, and Shilts makes little effort to hide his personal outrage at the early institutional indifference shown to dying gay Americans. But this book is a riveting account of how a health emergency, left unchecked, can infiltrate society, and it is all the more significant in historic times like these.
Ray Liang: MBA2 Managing Editor
by Lisa Genova
There’s no denying it. I’m an emotional person – I’ve cried many times while watching movies, but never while reading a novel. That is until this book. It made me ugly cry multiple times. It was made into a movie in 2014 with Julianne Moore (who is fantastic in the role and won an Oscar for it) playing the role of Alice Howland, a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It is an incredibly heart-wrenching novel that wrestles with difficult questions like can you maintain a sense of identity without your memories? And how does a family cope with a life altering disease? While there are no easy answers, and perhaps that’s the point, it gave me awareness about a disease that affects millions of people and a greater appreciation for what makes the human experience so unique.
Sanjna Shukla: MBA1 Assistant Managing Editor
The Woman in the Window
By A.J. Finn
Soon to be hitting the big screens with Nicole Kidman as the lead, The Woman in the Window is a suspense thriller novel with a dark twist. The story centers around Anna Fox, an agoraphobe who spends the entirety of her time indoors watching movies and drinking wine (sound familiar?). When new neighbors move in, Anna takes an interest in the family and witnesses something unspeakable. As she tries to piece together her neighbors’ secret, her own skeletons come out of the closet. I read the whole book in one sitting because it was too suspenseful to put down. I’d highly recommend!
James Prager: International Correspondent
By Charles C Mann
Technically, these are two separate books, but they go hand in hand. 1491 is an exploration of new world societies and cultures pre-Columbus. There is way more to these peoples than we learned in school. Mann describes the powerful empires in Mexico and Peru and new theories about societies living in the Amazon. It also raises a lot of questions about how wild the wilderness the Europeans encountered actually was. 1493 is the masterpiece though. Unlike 1491, which relies on archeological evidence, 1493 draws from contemporary accounts from the journals of people living in and exploring the newly connected continent. It encompasses the whole globe. You learn about how China started trading with Mexico City within two decades of Cortes’ arrival and the dramatic mixing of cultures the world had never seen before. You follow remarkable individuals and learn about unexpected connections like the impact Peru had on power struggles within the Holy Roman Empire and China. It’s the story of the original wave of globalization.
A Year in the Merde
By Stephen Clarke
This book probably kept me interested in French after high school – particularly after four years of lesson plans revolving around makeup, fashion and Amélie-cutesy romance. It also set outrageously high expectations for dating in my twenties. It’s the story of a twenty-something British guy moving to France as a consultant to a Parisian restaurant chain. He ends up having ridiculous adventures navigating Parisian urban life, wrangling wily French coworkers and stumbling his way through French bureaucracy – and high society. All this while hooking up with effortlessly sexy, constantly temperamental French women, of course. It’s raunchy, hilarious, smart, and immediately endearing to anyone who has spent time among the French.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon
This is one of the first books I read in New York about New York. Set predominantly in WWII-era New York, the novel is the story of two Jewish cousins meeting for the first time and becoming pioneers of the comic book industry. Clay is a born and bred Brooklynite with polio-wrecked legs and a tough guy attitude. His cousin Kavalier is a brilliant artist from the Jewish intelligentsia of Prague. He narrowly escapes the Nazis and joins Clay in New York. There they gradually find, lose and rediscover their identities while publishing a superhero comic series. Somehow both heartbreaking and fun, Chabon paints a breathtaking world populated with eccentric, interesting and real characters. It is easy to see why it won a Pulitzer. It is absolutely one of my favorite books and helped me fall in love with everything New York.
By Andy Weir
It’s got snark, adventure, and seat of your pants engineering – everything there is to love about hard science fiction. The story takes place in the near future, on the third or fourth mission to Mars. During an emergency evacuation, the main character is accidently left behind and must survive two years awaiting rescue with only two months’ worth of resources and a biting sense of humor. I’m still convinced that if Weir were to throw in some answer keys in the back, it could be the most entertaining Intro to Engineering textbook ever conceived. After reading this, I seriously considered going back into engineering and leaving all this business nonsense behind. Essentially, he is trapped alone on Mars for an unknown amount of time – and you thought your quarantine was bad. It was also made into an excellent movie.