Oberlin Blogs

My Favorite Books of Quarantine

July 21, 2020

Janelle Ickes ’22

Yesterday marked eighteen weeks since I returned from London. In those 126 days, I have been doing a lot of reading. I’ve read novels for my literature class, recent nonfiction, and some of my favorite books from my childhood. As an English major, I find that during the school year I have so much to read for class that I’m not able to focus on books that I want to read for myself (even though I usually love all the books I am assigned!), so I have appreciated having this time to read all kinds of things.

According to Goodreads, I have read twenty-three books since I’ve been home. Here, in no particular order, are six of my favorites.

The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene

I read this book for my Modernism class; we were supposed to be reading it in London but ended up discussing it over Zoom. This novel, set in London during World War II, is an incredibly gripping thriller/mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s got murder, a mysterious cake, modernist musings on the meaning of life and death… what’s not to love?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

This is my bedtime book. I’ve read it at least twice before, but it’s just so cozy and makes me feel comforted. The story is set in the 1930s and is told through the journal entries of a seventeen-year-old girl living with her family in a run-down English castle. It’s romantic, silly, and touching, and it makes me happy just thinking about it. 

The Beatles Anthology

I am reading this book in preparation for the Beatles ExCo that I teach at Oberlin. It’s a huge book made up entirely of quotes and interviews from the Beatles themselves, so it goes into great detail about their entire career. My friend and I taught our ExCo for the first time last fall, and I figured I would use this time to get some extra planning done before we teach it again in the spring!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I have been participating in a book club with several of the people that were on the London program with me. We take turns choosing books, and a couple of weeks ago, we read Lolita. I was surprised at how much I liked this novel. Equal parts devastatingly beautiful and horribly disturbing, it’s probably one of the most complex books I’ve ever read. It’s a book that I will keep coming back to, the kind where you see something different every time you read it.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

I am a firm believer that people should read whatever they want! Including silly middle-grade fantasy books! I don’t know if anyone else was obsessed with these books in middle school, but my friends and I certainly were. During a socially distanced visit, we reminisced about the series, and one of us suggested rereading it together. So for the past couple of months, we’ve been zooming and meeting up multiple times every week to read the books out loud together. Spoiler alert: the books are just as good as they were when I was eleven. And it’s been a great excuse to spend lots of time with old friends.

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Over these past few months, I have become more aware of the racial injustices occurring in our country, and I have realized that there are many, many gaps in my education on these topics. I saw this book being recommended by a lot of people, and I am in the middle of it right now. I really like the way that it is organized: each chapter focuses on a different question that people might have about race. These questions range from very general (Is it really about race?) to more specific (What is the school-to-prison pipeline?), and the writing is both informative and approachable. I have liked this book so far, and I would recommend it as a starting point for people wanting to take anti-racist action.

Since I’m a junior, I’ll be home all fall and won’t go back to Oberlin until January, according to the revised schedule. That means plenty of time for reading! So if you have any recommendations, be sure to send them my way!

Similar Blog Entries