Friends of SMU Libraries Quarantine Reading List

April 1, 2020

Dear SMU Community,

It is certainly a strange world we are living in, but I believe that now more than ever our love of books and reading can help us stay connected. In that vein, our amazing Friends board has compiled a short list of reading suggestions that we want to share with all of you. I hope you are able to take a little joy from this and find a book that will help you take a moment to think about something other than all the sadness and uncertainty in our world right now. Recommendations below. Stay safe and be well!

All my best,

Amy Carver, Director, Friends of SMU Libraries


From Michelle –

This is Happiness by Niall Williams came recommended by a top neurosurgeon at UT Southwestern (a friend of mine) when I was at a low point and anxious about all going on this past weekend.  He said- “life is messy” – which is true. And he noted that this book in some way relates to what we are going through. I just started it but it begins with this quote:

“All these squalls to which we have been subjected are signs that the weather will soon improve and things will go well for us, because it is not possible for the bad or the good to endure forever, and from this it follows that since the bad has lasted so long, the good is close at hand.”

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote


From Karen –

I am deeply loving The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish, though it is way longer than anything I would usually read.

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys, officially a YA novel, has a Dallas connection. Not mentioned, but underlying this historical fiction: one of the oil men allowed in Spain during the time period was Algur Meadows, and is, no doubt, why SMU has a museum of Spanish art.

And, of course, Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights, which also has Dallas and SMU stories. The New York Times says it “reads, at times, like a legal thriller.”


From Cindy –

I think if I look at all of my Authors LIVE! books I should be good on reading material for awhile – especially Stephen Harrigan’s ‘big, wonderful thing’…..  834 pages!


From Janis –

I just want light, funny, eccentric reads right now. I would recommend anything by Alexander McCall Smith – especially My Italian Bulldozer and The Second Worst Restaurant in France, two of his relatively new ones with the same lead character – very cute and thoughtful. Also, he is beginning a new series, and the first one is The Department of Sensitive Crimes with Detective Varg – again, quirky and witty.

And, Anne Cleeves (author of the Shetland and the Vera Series shown on KERA) is beginning a new series. The Long Call is the first.


From Mike –

In stressful times, I enjoy amusing books. It’s hard to beat Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. When Queen Elizabeth’s corgi strays into a mobile library in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. One book leads to another, and soon the Queen finds herself engrossed in the pleasure of reading, much to the consternation of her staff and ministers.

Another charmer, which I expect most have read, is Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road, consisting of the New York author’s correspondence with a London bookshop.


From Paul –

Combining books and music, I’ve started reading Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story: How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War.


From Lou –

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a good family story.

The Long Petal of the Sea by Isabelle Allende is following a couple who flee Spain after the Civil War to Chile where they make new lives.

O, The Overstory by Richard Powers.  I cannot say enough about this wonderful book about trees…how they relate to each other, how they contribute to our well being, how we love them, how we mistreat them, how they save us.  Fiction but all of the events are based on true happenings. The first half of the book is 8 or 9 individual stories of how trees became a big part of each person’s life; these are great little short stories themselves.  Some of these folks meet each other later.

I loved this book, read it twice.

I am also looking at my personal library to see what delicious book I might want to re-read. Dr. Zhivago and Galsworthy’s A Man of Property have caught my eye.


From Alan –

First, I am a big Pat Conroy fan. One of my favs that might be appropriate for now is My Reading Life. It is filled with lots of terrific, often funny anecdotes of his life. You will smile and want to reread the page you just read – because he is that good.

The second book for your consideration is a children’s book. When I taught school years ago, Hank the Cowdog was just taking flight. John Erickson is a terrific writer and this series was uber popular with elementary kids and their teachers. Hank is a somewhat eccentric dog who fancies himself as the head of ranch security on a West Texas ranch. Read the first book in the series, Hank the Cowdog, and then try not to read the next one.


From Jann –

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Literary Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Anne Shaffer

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler


From Amy –

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is my latest favorite. This is the story of a Mexican bookseller who is forced to leave behind her life and escape with her son as an undocumented immigrant to the United States — a fictional tale but definitely ripped from the headlines. It’s a page-turner that is bound to get you thinking. I couldn’t put it down!

Happy Reading!