Staff Picks: Best Pandemic Books

As this year draws to a close, we can’t help but feel like the last two years have simultaneously blurred together and dragged on for what seems like an era. So this year, we decided to review books we have discovered and enjoyed during the pandemic. While we hope never, ever, to repeat a pandemic, we do hope you’ll find our reviews helpful. Perhaps you’ll find something new to spark your reading interests for 2022!

Elsie, Children’s Librarian

We are Still Here by Traci Sorell – I enjoyed learning about the resiliency of the Native people in America. The continuous reassertion of “We are still in here” in view of their history of persecution by the Government is inspiring. They endure assimilation, relocating, genocide, and other atrocities and unjust practices, and they still survive. 

Monet’s Cat by Lily Murray – I enjoyed this book for not only a glimpse at Monet’s paintings, but also the bit of magic in bringing his cat to life for its adventures. 

Justice, Teen & Youth Librarian

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles –  I picked up this book unsurprisingly because it’s about a librarian. I loved the main character because we are very similar, and I found her fight to keep the library running in the midst of World War ll invigorating. Her love of books and devotion to making sure people had access to them was inspiring.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – One of my favorite books is The Martian by Andy Weir which is why I chose this book. In his new book, the author brings a character and setting similar to that of The Martian. The character has a fantastic sense of humor and sarcasm while on a “suicide mission” through space. While similar to The Martian, the plot is different enough to feel like a new and fresh story.

Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink – This one caught my eye because it’s set during the Tulsa Race Massacre, and because one of the plot points is about a bookmobile. It’s fascinating and horrific to read about this event that happened so close to home. The book can be hard to get through, but very worth the read.

Heather, Executive Director

When the Wolf Came by Mary Jane Warde – History, much like science, is a collection of information objects that become refined in accuracy and precision over time. Or as my husband says, “it gets more better”. In my opinion, When the Wolf Came is the preeminent, acutely accurate review of a formerly elusive and still relatively unknown topic: the history of the Civil War in the Indian Territory. I listened to the audiobook and found narrator Robert E. Anderson’s voice really complements the book. 

The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War by Delphine Minoui – This is a journalistic recount of a group of rebel survivors who find a collection of books while searching for survivors and bodies, and go on to create an underground library in Daraya, outside of Damascus, Syria. The library becomes a beacon of hope in a community seized and aggressively siloed for four years. Minour is a French-Iranian journalist who used social media to track down the library’s founders. The text illustrates how amazingly transformative and motivating libraries can be, especially in regards to human compassion and democratic philosophy. It also made me thankful for where I live and all I have.

Mythos written and narrated by Stephen Fry – So I may actually be cheating by including this one. Released in the UK in 2017, the audiobook format wasn’t released in the US until late 2019. I discovered this work during the first 2020 shutdown. These stories served my family as “pandemic fables” throughout 2020 and 2021. If you are familiar with the British actor, comedian, and writer, then I can tell you Fry’s modern retelling of the Hellenic classics is as beguiling and funny as you would probably imagine it to be. As a parent, I feel obliged to say these are Greek and Roman classics: as such, parts of some stories aren’t exactly appropriate for littles… but nothing a quick skip to the next chapter wouldn’t solve. 

Amanda, Local History & Genealogy Librarian

Disclaimer: I am still in graduate school and have no time to read for pleasure. But, if I did, the following books are two I would really like to read.

The Effort by Claire Holroyde – This science fiction novel about a comet passing near Earth, and could come close enough to collide with the planet.  If it hits, it would most likely wipe out the human race and other life forms on Earth.  To try and prepare for this disaster, a team is trying to find ways to survive the impact, prevent it, or come to terms with it.

The Fifth Science by Exurb1a – This seems like an interesting book.  It is a set of loosely connected stories set hundreds of thousands of years in the future during a scenario where humans have reached distant stars, building a galactic empire, and their decline.  The author is a YouTuber who makes videos telling these stories and they’re always very interesting and usually pretty funny, so I would love to see what his book is like!