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The best books to read while social distancing, according to Fortune staff

March 29, 2020, 11:00 AM UTC

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Many of us have extra time on our hands right now while practicing social distancing. You might want to use this extra time for learning. Or you might just want an escape.

Reading books can offer the best of both worlds. Remember, as George R. R. Martin writes in A Dance With Dragons, “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Here are some of the best books to read while staying in, according to Fortune writers and editors.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

This is the first of a five-part series of 1960s–1970s British fantasy novels, in which a trio of precocious siblings find themselves in the center of a centuries-long battle between agents of good and evil, with connections to Arthurian, Norse, and Celtic legends. Recently reissued with moving introductions by nature writer Robert Macfarlane, the series lovingly embraces the beauty, mystery, and fearfulness of the natural landscape, and explores how even some of the wildest, loneliest places can bear the traces of extraordinary human events. —Gabe Boylan, strategist

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice For Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this book, which is something we all could use a little more of these days. It’s not just about telling ridiculous stories; she has a way of pulling in the perspectives of her family and friends in a meaningful way. While I’m bummed she’s postponed her spring tour, this is a great substitute. —Rachel Schallom, deputy editor, digital

Normal People by Sally Rooney

While you’re socially distancing, why not add some emotional distance? Normal People by Sally Rooney will do the trick. Irish teenagers struggle to connect—soothingly, for reasons other than a global pandemic—in this novel.—Emma Hinchliffe, associate editor

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt

After the coronavirus (whenever “after” is), the world will have to grapple with some form of reconstruction. It’s not too soon to look back at the amazingly successful effort to rebuild the economy, culture, and spirits of an entire continent ravaged by a catastrophe even deeper and more divisive than the one we’re facing now. This magisterial Pulitzer Prize finalist will help you look back and forward at the same time. —David Z. Morris, staff writer

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This massive 850-page fantasy epic has it all: mages, knights, epic quests, and warring factions in a made-up land. Oh, and dragons, both good and evil. More important, Shannon’s multifaceted characters drive the story forward and keep you glued to the page. Just the kind of transporting diversion we need in these times. —Aaron Pressman, senior writer

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

I read and enjoyed Mantel’s Wolf Hall and was inspired to get this second book in the trilogy as the third just came out. On the downside, there’s a bit of plague going around 16th-century England, and it rears its head every few pages. On the upside, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII feel safely distant enough from our times that it counts as escapism to me. —Adam Lashinsky, executive editor

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

If you’ve been meaning to catch up on some classics (or perhaps want to revisit one), this incredibly long novel centered on themes of justice and revenge is the perfect literary escape. Oft-referenced or adapted in pop culture, this action-packed tale is full of depth—and it’s worth getting your hands on an unabridged copy if you can. —Radhika Marya, entertainment editor

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

If you have to stay in your house, why not read about a dream house at the same time? But the home at the center of prolific novelist Ann Patchett’s latest book is a main character in its own right—perhaps just as much an antagonist as protagonist. Virtually everyone who lives in the postmodern, literal glass house in the sleepy suburbs of Philadelphia falls in love with it, to the point of obsession.—Rachel King, editor

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

While coronavirus ravages the world, treat yourself to the saga of failed medical startup Theranos. Founder Elizabeth Holmes’s vision gains poignancy in these times as we cope with a bungled pandemic response and struggle with testing shortfalls. If only her device had worked. —Robert Hackett, senior reporter

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The story is full of suspense and sucks you in—a very welcome reprieve right now. LaValle gives you just enough information at every point to keep you coming back, but not enough that you ever know what will happen next. One of my favorite books of the year. —McKenna Moore, assistant audience engagement editor

Wolf by Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter

A great stay-at-home choice is Wolf, which traces the rise to power of Adolf Hitler through an invented character. Friedrich Richard befriends the nearly blinded Hitler in a military hospital during World War II and believes in his plan to restore dignity and economy following the humiliations imposed by the victors. Richard works as Hitler’s “fixer,” quashing looming scandals from his friend’s romances with teenage mistresses and using force to sideline political opponents. Hitler’s bloody purge, including the murder of many old allies, upon rising to the presidency in 1934 finally turns Richard into an enemy.

Though Richard is the authors’ conceit for getting a close-up view of Hitler, the book is based on extensive research. It ranks with the best historical fiction, in the tradition of such Herman Wouk works as War and Remembrance. Stern boasts a fabled history of leading successful investigations, as the New York assistant DA who handled the Malcolm X murder, and as the crusading U.S. attorney for New Jersey who prosecuted leading politicians across the state. For melding entertainment with compelling history, Wolf can’t be beat. —Shawn Tully, senior editor-at-large

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz

This book is huge—a treasure trove of amazing stories and photos that capture an era of the music industry (and of course, New York City) that is appealing to both casual and loyal fans of the Beastie Boys. Despite its size, I tore through it within days, and even with some expectedly poignant portions (RIP, MCA), it really put a smile on my face. It’s a perfect read as we all social distance, and I hear the audiobook is a delight too. —Radhika Marya, entertainment editor

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—Some of the most extreme ways companies are combating the coronavirus
—How luxury designers in Italy’s fashion heartland are facing the coronavirus
—Amazon tells employees to work from home if they can. Warehouse workers can’t
—Why Dollar General thinks the coronavirus can help business
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