2020’s Best Vicarious Living

Raise your hand if you’ve been doing some vicarious living during the pandemic.

Which means: Have you been doing a lot of reading? And I mean A LOT.

That’s been me. I may be stuck at home, but at least, with a good book, I don’t have to feel like I’m at home. I’m flying over Metropolis with Superman. Or I’m chasing down FTAs with Stephanie Plum. Or I’m living alongside robots in Isaac Asimov’s vision of the future. (My reading list has been a little all over the place.)

Today, I thought it would be fun to make a list of the top ten books I’ve read during the pandemic. If you’re looking for a new read, give one of these a try and let me know what you think. I’m always up for a good book conversation!

My Top 10 Books of the Pandemic

(10) Adultolescence by Gabbie Hanna

As much as I enjoy writing and reading poetry, I kind of forget about it. I picked up this book mostly because I wanted something a little bit different. I found the poems to be incredibly relatable and oddly beautiful in their bluntness. Some were funny, some were sad, but they were all undeniably honest. The illustrations were strange in a way that fit perfectly with the tone of the poems. I found out later that the author is a YouTuber. While I don’t know much about her on that platform, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed her poetry.

(9) Highfire by Eoin Colfer

A bizarre book about a vodka-drinking dragon in a Louisiana swamp who gets himself into some trouble with a good-hearted ne’er-do-well and a crooked cop. The one downside to this book is there is a lot of mature language. It sets the tone for the story and characters, but if you’re someone who doesn’t really curse (like me), it’s a lot. Beyond that, though, it’s a unique and at times funny and heartwarming fantasy story that, once you get to a certain point, is a real-page turner.

(8) How to Become a Federal Criminal by Mike Chase

I don’t typically read nonfiction but this book had me laughing out loud. Mike Chase’s sarcastic wit pairs perfectly with these strange laws that, yes, all really exist. Funny and educational, this is a really solid read for fans of history, law, or the just-plain-weird.

(7) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Oddly appropriate for a pandemic, this book is written in a nonfiction style. (I didn’t know much about it going in, except that I like Michael Crichton; while reading it, I was actually worried that we’d cataloged it incorrectly–the writing is that convincing. Or maybe I’m just gullible….) Still, it’s engaging and exciting, partly because it feels so real. The story might be fiction, but if something like this ever would happen, you have no doubt, while reading it, that this is exactly how events would play out.

(6) Harleen by Stjepan Sejic

A dark and deeply psychological story diving into who Harleen Quinzel was before she became Harley Quinn. The writer takes his time to build both her own doubts alongside her infatuation with the Joker. The end result is a chilling read with absolutely stunning artwork. NOTE: This is not a book meant for kids. Mature content.

(5) Batman: White Knight by Sean Gordon Murphy

Another book not meant for kids. A critical look at the Batman character that also examines human nature alongside socioeconomic issues. The core plot? The Joker is cured. While still not a saint, this sane Joker strives for a better Gotham… and this better Gotham seemingly doesn’t need Batman. I’d only planned to read an issue of this book when I sat down to start it; I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting.

(4) Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

A read this book in one day. The sequel to Every Heart a Doorway, this is also a prequel explaining the “door” that characters Jack and Jill found. It’s dark and mysterious, but told like a fairy tale. The end result is a book you can’t put down. If you’re looking for something creepy, but still magical, this is a great choice.

(3) The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows series, by multiple authors

I adored this series: Taking place in a universe where Mary Jane and Peter Parker get married and have a daughter with spider-powers, this series is full of family themes: heartwarming, relatable, and engaging–but also with plenty of humor. Peter Parker is the king of dad jokes–because of course he is. The series technically starts with a Secret Wars tie-in. The only negative of this series: There’s only five books with these characters! (And that’s including the tie-in… though they do also appear briefly in the arc Spider-geddon.)

(2) Dark Nights Metal story arc, by multiple authors, but primarily Scott Snyder

A bizarre journey that felt like a fusion of heavy metal concert and comic book action. It’s as fun as it is terrifying; as empowering is as it unsettling. It’s a rush from beginning to end, with plenty of “oh yeah!” moments featuring your favorite DC characters. Both an in-depth look at Batman’s psyche while also a “worst nightmare” of the Justice League, this is a story that will have you eagerly turning the pages and begging for more.

For the full story, you actually need to read four books: Dark Days: The Road to Metal, Dark Nights Metal, Dark Nights Metal: Dark Knights Rising, and Dark Nights Metal: The Resistance. For the best experience, you also have to read the issues contained in these four volumes in a certain order–which means bouncing from one book to the next. (Welcome to the world of comics. *insert maniacal laugh*) For the best reading order, check out the comicbookherlad.com. This is a fantastic resource and an excellent website for any comic fan.)

(1) The Wayward Pines series, by Blake Crouch

I wrote about this series in a previous blog, but I can’t stress this enough: Blake Crouch is an amazing author. His unerring grasp of human nature alongside larger-than-life sci-fi plots makes his stories un-put-down-able. This particular series finds Secret Service agent Ethan Burke in a strange town that he seemingly can’t escape: A massive electric fence surrounds the perimeter. But is it keeping the people in… or keeping something else out? This is a series you just have to experience for yourself!

What books have you read during the pandemic? Found any new favorites? Tell me about them in the comments!

Book covers from Goodreads.com.

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