5 Best Books About Love, Loss, & Isolation That Hit Different In Quarantine

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5 Best Books To Read In Quarantine
Self

Considering how senselessly the pandemic and quarantine interrupted our lives, many of us have spent the past few months searching for meaning. During quarantine, I’ve started reading a lot more. It is an attempt to not only feel more productive, but I’ve also found that the best books really helped give me a sense of direction in a really meaningless and cruel time.

While I stayed cooped up in my room, I found that books on love, isolation, and loss feel especially poignant these past few months. 

Many of us have found ourselves isolated: whether that be working and learning remotely from home, working an essential job that requires you to distance yourself from family and friends, or simply being stuck at home for health reasons, quarantine has pushed us further inside. 

While I get the allure of endless Netflix binging during this time, as TV and movies provide comforting escapism during a time when we need it the most, I have always found that books are always there when I need a new perspective. 

At a time when we are all especially vulnerable, the best books to read hold a lot of power.

Their emotions, their sentiments, can finally vocalize the messiness we have been feeling, and suddenly seeing this messiness written in ink can feel like a weight being lifted off your chest. 

Seeing what acclaimed authors have to say on loneliness can feel especially comforting or can hit especially hard given our current circumstances. On one hand, seeing what authors have to say in harder times than ours can add credibility to their words.

One hand, it is just nice to see something particularly well-written and have a really hard cry about it. 

RELATED: 5 Activities To Kill Time When You're Bored During Quarantine

Here are 5 books about love, loss, and isolation that hit differently in quarantine. 

Best Books About Love 

1. Normal People by Sally Rooney

It is a tale as old as time; two people who love each other but for some reason can never find the right time to finally be together.

Set in Ireland, Connell is popular but poor, and Marianne is weird but rich. This odd-duck pairing finds each other in high school and weaves in and out of each other’s lives for the next few decades. 

Rooney captures the passion of first love through Connel and Marianne’s longing for each other, as well as their quick-witted but charged banter in the few moments they are together. Their chemistry feels especially electric when you yourself haven’t been touched by a human person for the past few months. 

But more importantly, when you have someone you have been missing during quarantine, it can be incredibly heart-warming to watch these two completely different people fight so hard to stay together. 

Marianne and Connell have left a lasting imprint in each other’s lives, and they are both aware of that. So while circumstances — both caused by them and caused by factors out of their control — might tear them apart, they always find their way back to each other. 

When quarantine separates us from those we love, a story about the unbreakable bonds of passionate and tumultuous love can be just what we need to have hope in our own love lives. 

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2. We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson 

Bear with me here: We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is about high schooler Henry Denton: he is depressed, his boyfriend committed suicide last year, and now he is being routinely abducted by aliens who are telling him he has to end the world. 

Now, I get if you yourself are struggling with your mental health, you hardly want to read a book in which a character equally as miserable as you struggles hopelessly. But, the book’s seeming weirdness and unconventionality actually reveal a very touching story about how your relationships with others: whether it be with your family, your best friends, or a new connection, can help you make sense of the arbitrary cruelty of life. 

Sound familiar? Hutchinson uses the weird, supernatural extraterrestrial to represent a higher power threatening to end humanity, and uses that to speak to the strength and the power of human love. 

Everyone at the start of the novel is at their lowest point: Henry’s mom is a struggling waitress, his brother is a jobless dropout, his grandma is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and his best friend will not talk to him anymore. 

But it is through love that they are able to be better. It is touching, and a little comforting, especially now, to watch these characters heal despite their circumstances. 

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RELATED: 40 Fun Things You Can Do While In Self-Quarantine

Best Books About Loss 

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is a graphic novel about pre-teen Conor who dreams every night since his mom fell ill. Acclaimed author Patrick Ness takes the final idea from writer Siobhan Dowd and combines prose and illustration to create a heartbreaking story about disease, loss, and family. 

There is an impulse to go back to that time when you were a pre-teen, where the slightest change was enough to make you want to scream and cry. For Conor, as his mom dying of cancer, his dad has moved to America to be with his new family. He lives in a cold house with this grandmother, who he doesn’t understand or want to be with. 

The only person he has is the monster that visits him in his nightmares. The monster, through a series of dreams that seem to bend reality, teaches him the thin line between right and wrong. 

A Monster Calls is cathartic. For many of us, we not only have to struggle with isolation, but we also have to struggle with grief, or more importantly the threat of grief. As the virus’ death rate climbs higher every day, life seems especially fragile. 

Seeing Conor lash out, scream, yet ultimately work with higher forces separate from his reality to finally grow up, feels healing. Because if Conor can finally make sense of his nightmares, there might be some hope you can move past your own heartbreak; the illustrations, the mind-bending yet heartbreaking prose, gives you a moment to grieve. 

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4. Norweigan Wood By Haruki Murakami 

Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami looks hard at the thin line between death and living. The book’s world is haunted by grief; Toru, Midori, and Naoko constantly have to leverage their own grief to understand what makes life worth living. 

Murakami looks at how existentialism and death affect the burgeoning sexuality of his three main characters. During quarantine, we’ve seen how quickly the iron-clad relationships you think you’ve built crumble into dust. 

Sometimes it is not your fault; this difficult time has everyone second-guessing themselves, second-guessing their future, second-guessing their purpose, and more importantly, second-guessing their entire lives. 

Norweigan Wood is not necessarily a comforting read, but it gives pin-point accuracy to the muddled and scary feelings we are currently facing surrounding death and the fragility of life. Sometimes, there is no comfort for us in the end; recovery cannot be defined linearly, which might seem hopeless. 

But all we can do at the end of the day is to continue living and take at least some small comfort in the fact that loss is not an individual experience, even though the feeling itself is so isolating. It is a burden we all have to shoulder, and the book verbalizes that collective experience perfectly. 

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Best Books About Isolation 

5. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 

Okay, please stop groaning. I know this book gets a bad rap for being that one unbearable book that you had to read in high school, but upon reading the book again there are many parts about Holden Caulfield’s loneliness, isolation, and indecision that are actually really relatable. 

For anyone who hasn’t read it at this point, Catcher in the Rye is about Holden Caulfield and his attempts at a coming-of-age when he leaves an “institution” in California after World War II. 

While a lot of our current circumstances are much, much different that Caulfield, there is a reason why for a while, Caulfield spoke to a generation of lost, purposeless, youths who had their lives wasted by a seismic historical event. There is something incredibly empathetic in Caulfield’s frustration, his loss of identity, sexuality in his deep depression. 

Caulfield is not exactly the most sympathetic protagonist, most people noting how much he complains yet does nothing to actively fix his situation. But this ignores the problem many of us face: this frustration with “productivity.” 

We are all expected to function normally after a life-changing, historical event has completely interrupted our lives. How can we possibly “progress” and “mature” towards a better future, when the world is seemingly falling apart around us? 

Catcher in the Rye, to me, perfectly captures this feeling of loss, and this deep feeling of isolation, when the world itself actively tries to move on without you. 

​Check prices and reviews on Amazon.

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Jessica is a writer who covers books, love, and relationships. 

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