You’re sheltering in place. Now what?
Hey, pals. Hanging in there? In the US, we are going into month six of sheltering in place/quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be hard to feel motivated, positive, or excited about anything. But for many, that’s where books come in. We are getting a whole lot of reading time in during the long summer days of staying home. People are in different places, mental health-wise. Some people are okay, and even prefer, reading books about pandemics, environmental disasters, and nonfiction about the US health system during this time. Others gravitate towards lighter subjects as a reprieve from the anxiety-inducing state of the world.
We’ve compiled a list of 20 lighthearted books that we’ve read since the beginning of the widespread coronavirus shelter-in-place orders. These books will make you laugh, make you cry, and maybe even make you feel like the world isn’t so bad, after all. We hope you find some gems in our list of books to read while sheltering in place.
This article contains Bookshop affiliate links. You can learn more about Far Flung Reader’s participation in Bookshop’s affiliate program here.
20 Books to Read While Sheltering in Place
You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty is a high school senior who can’t wait to get out of Campbell, Indiana. She’s all set to attend Pennington College, play in their orchestra, and become a successful doctor. Just one problem- she doesn’t get the financial aid that she was counting on to attend. Enter prom season. Liz’s prom-obsessed high school offers a scholarship to its prom queen and prom king, so she decides to run. The new girl, Mack, is also running and is majorly crush-worthy.
This queer YA romance is sweet and light-hearted while still discussing topics of race, identity, and being true to yourself. You’ll be rooting for Liz the whole way!
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love has never been in love. He’s Black, queer, and transgender, and secretly worries that the intersection of his marginalized identities will prevent him from getting his own happily ever after. When someone anonymously deadnames Felix at his school over the summer AND starts sending him harassing, transphobic messages, Felix develops a plan to figure out who it is.
This is one of the best books of 2020, hands down. It is sweet, funny, and real. Felix and his friends are wonderful and truly support each other in a realistic, beautiful way. You will be swept up in Felix’s personal journey of self-discovery, identity, and finding love.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Emily has just relocated to small-town Maryland to help out her sister while she’s recovering from a recent accident. “Helping out” entails being roped into volunteer at the local Ren Faire with her teenage niece for the summer. She butts heads immediately with Simon, the main organizer of the fair, and can’t figure out why he hates her so much. Things get confusing, though, when Simon’s Ren Faire character treats Emily quite differently when they’re performing for guests.
This rom-com is so cute! Plus, Simon is pretty hot. The build-up to sexy times is pretty entertaining, and this romance is a perfect way to escape the walls of your home while you’re sheltering in place.
I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
Ben De Backer gets thrown out of their house after coming out to their parents as nonbinary. As a result, Ben has to move in with their older sister, Hannah, whom they don’t have a close relationship with. Ben is out and supported by Hannah and her husband, but tries to keep a low profile at their new school. Keeping a low profile is kind of hard when Ben becomes friends with and starts to develop feelings for Nathan Allan, a funny, outgoing classmate.
Mason Deaver, who is nonbinary, has said they wrote the kind of book they would have wanted to read when they were 15. This story has all the sweetness of a YA romance while addressing identity, mental health, and family. Some parts of this book are heartbreaking, but it is an important story highlighting an LGBTQ+ experience not often told in mainstream media.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo, an aging and reclusive movie star, hires Monique Grant, a relatively unknown reporter, to record her life story. Monique, who has no idea why a star as big as Evelyn would choose her to write the biography, is hoping this opportunity will jump-start her stagnant career. Monique hears the tale of Evelyn’s career, relationships, and losses, and learns that their lives may intersect in a way she was not expecting.
This book is a page-turner that will keep your eyes riveted to the page. Prepare to be utterly immersed in the world Taylor Jenkins Reid has immaculately constructed.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Of all the books to read while sheltering in place, this might be the funniest. Samantha Irby’s third published collection of essays explores the concept of getting older and being, if not happy, fine. From being a Black woman living in a small white Michigan town to going out on a weeknight as a 40-something, Irby’s wry, sarcastic voice is a balm. If you hate people and want to put your feelings into words, read this book.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Dannie has her whole life planned out. From the perfect job to the perfect marriage proposal, she can’t wait to live her predictable five-year plan out. But, one night, she wakes up in another apartment, with a man she does not know, five years in the future. Trying to shake off this strange vision, Dannie is further freaked out when her best friend, Bella, starts dating the very man from her vision.
This book is a page-turner that is about the resilience of friendship, and the things we do for love. It is, in fact, a love story, but not in the way you might initially think.
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Emoni Santiago has a lot on her plate. She knows she has to make the sacrifices necessary for her to take care of her daughter, help support her grandmother, and finish high school. She feels truly free and herself when she is doing the thing she loves- cooking. But can she juggle senior year, a new culinary arts class, and a possible class trip to Spain on top of everything else?
With the Fire On High is truly delightful. Emoni’s character, her family, and her friends are all such positive forces. Acevedo’s point of view is a refreshing take on teen motherhood, and this story is so heart-warming.
American Royals by Katharine McGee
What if the United States had established a monarchy after the Revolutionary War? Princess Beatrice, member of the House of Washington, is on the cusp of becoming America’s first queen regent. With such a big responsibility on the horizon, however, her life seems suddenly stifling.
This alternate history YA is a fun, breezy read that will easily transport you out of this world for a while. You will get caught up in the lives of Princess Beatrice, Princess Samantha, Nina, and Daphne all too quickly.
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
This modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice follows Zuri Benitez, who has immense pride in her family and Brooklyn neighborhood. However, the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street and is a tangible reminder of the gentrification being enacted in her neighborhood. She especially can’t stand Darius Darcy, who is arrogant and standoffish. But when her sister starts hanging around with Darius’ older brother, Zuri and Darius are pushed together and their relationship begins to change.
Pride is a fun retelling of a classic Jane Austen tale. You will fall in love with Zuri and her sisters, and the city is also a very vibrant character throughout the story as well.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
January Andrews’ life is kind of a mess. Her father has just passed away and left her a secret beach house, where he evidently stayed with his secret mistress. A successful romance writer, she is also experiencing some serious writer’s block and an impending deadline. When she decides to stay at the beach house for the summer, she discovers that her neighbor is Augustus Everett, a rival literary author and arch nemesis from college. After challenging each other to write in the other person’s genre, sparks fly.
This book is probably one of the more hyped books of summer 2020, but we’re here to say it really is a fun read. If you like breezy romance with a bit of emotional substance, this is a great read.
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Zadie and Emma have been friends for years, starting in their early twenties when they were both in medical school. They are now both successful doctors, wives, and mothers, but their contentment gets shaken when an unexpected person from their past arrives in Charlotte, North Carolina. The resurfacing of Nick, a former colleague, brings a secret to light and makes Zadie and Emma reevaluate their relationship.
This book is emotional and raw, full of tension and the occasional comedic reprieve. This richly written medical drama is a great exploration of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness. Pick this up if you’re looking for something captivating and emotional to read while sheltering in place.
Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
It’s the summer of 1934 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and tragedy has struck the Adler family. Matriarch Esther makes a shocking decision to keep this tragedy a secret from her pregnant daughter, Fannie, who is on bed rest after having miscarried a previous pregnancy. The Adlers, who are Jewish, are also hosting a young woman who has escaped Nazi Germany, and with that come more family secrets and conflicts.
This story is not necessarily light, but it is emotional and will make you want to keep reading to find out what happens next. It’s a story of love, loss, and generational trauma that also leaves you feeling hopeful.
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Sloan Monroe lost her fiance two years ago, and she can’t seem to get back on her own two feet. She finds an adorable lost dog, Tucker, and decides to take him home. Here’s the catch: Tucker’s owner, a hot musician named Jason, has just returned from touring in Australia and wants his dog back. Obviously, romance ensues.
This is technically the second book in The Friend Zone series, but you don’t have to read them in order to fully enjoy them! This is a cute, fun rom-com where the stakes are low and everyone gets their happily ever after.
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye bares a lot in his memoir. From childhood to the present day, Jonathan details and highlights moments of his life that have helped shape him. From figure skating to hairdressing, this book has it all, honey.
If you’re a fan of Queer Eye, you may have already read this. But if you haven’t, pick it up ASAP! Jonathan is honest and raw in this memoir, detailing moments of trauma and low points in his life that ultimately led him to become the amazingly positive force we see him as today. This book will make you laugh, cry, and feel a little less alone. We love you, Jonathan!
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Khai Diep has autism, and he processes emotions differently than many of his family members. However, he worries that he is incapable of ever opening up and feeling love. Khai’s mom, frustrated with his resistance to a romantic relationship, decides to take matters into her own hands. She travels to Ho Chi Minh City and invites Esme Tran to visit America and get Khai to fall in love with her. Seeing an opportunity for her and her daughter, Esme agrees but soon finds herself smitten with a man who can’t seem to reciprocate.
Helen Hoang, who is neurodiverse herself, brings refreshing characters to her romance novels. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll definitely need to put this book in the freezer because these sex scenes are fire. It’s a wonderfully light-hearted book to read while sheltering in place.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Alex Stern is the only survivor of a horrific homicide in Los Angeles and has had a rough life during her 20 years. While she is recovering in the hospital, she gets a strange offer: attend Yale, all expenses paid, in exchange for supervising the goings-on of several secret societies at the university. Alex soon learns that she may be in over her head when her mentor disappears, and something seems not quite right with the illustrious network of high-power, occult societies.
This book has mixed reviews on Goodreads, but we personally loved it. It’s a fast-paced mystery-thriller that will keep you guessing, and keep you up late tearing through the pages. This book is thoroughly entertaining and great for fans of Vicious and Six of Crows.
Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, has an arch-nemesis: Prince Henry of Great Britain. When a photo-op at a royal wedding goes horribly awry, Alex and Henry are forced to smooth over international relations by convincing the world they’re best friends. As they get to know each other, they realize their feelings are much stronger than simply platonic.
This book is a breath of fresh air and presents readers with a better version of our country. It’s definitely escapist, but that’s what some of us need right now to deal. Also, how can you not love an M/M romance featuring two political celebrities? How we wish this book was real.
Fumbled by Alexa Martin
Single mom Poppy Patterson has built a life that is completely hers. She loves her son and works hard to support him and their life in Colorado. Things get all topsy-turvy when she runs into her old high school sweetheart, TK Moore, who is now the starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs. As they get to know each other all over again, they overcome past secrets and misunderstandings. But, does Poppy really want to get into a relationship with one of the city’s biggest football stars?
Much like The Happy Ever After Playlist, Fumbled is the second in Alexa Martin’s Playbook series. Again, you don’t have to read these books in order! You can enjoy any of Alexa Martin’s books out of order, and this one is our favorite so far. It’s fun, sexy, and a great romance if you like the story to involve family and friendship, too.
The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry
Roxy loves her city of Austin. Her ex-boyfriend, who is now her roommate? Not so much. As Roxy and her friends go on a quest to keep Austin weird and stop the ever-increasing corporatization of her city, her letters to her roommate, Everett, become less about overdue rent and more personal.
If you’re looking for a book to read while sheltering in place that is laugh-out-loud ridiculous in the best kind of way, pick this up! The turns that the plot takes are unbelievable, yet you can’t help but go with them. We recommend the audiobook version, as the narrator does a wonderful job.