Problems You Will Never Have
Everyone copes with the stress of living through a global pandemic in different ways. Some of us are watching the movie Pandemic, playing the board game Pandemic, and reading Station Eleven. I have to confess: I cannot relate. In times of stress, the last thing I want is to add extra anxiety into my reading. This list is for people like me, who would like to dive into some stress-free escapism with absolutely no connection to any of my real life concerns. So here are some problems you will definitely never have…
You will never get arrested for looking at the building next door.
The City & the City by China Miéville
In this speculative fiction novel, Miéville has created a world where two cities exist right on top of each other. Two different languages, cultures, and economies. And “seeing” anyone or anything from the other city is the worst crime imaginable. As impossible as it seems to imagine not being able to even “see” the house next door, or the person walking towards us on the street, Miéville somehow takes the reader right into this mindset and by the end of the novel you’ll be right there with Detective Borlú as he attempts to solve a cross-city murder.
You will never get stranded on Mars.
The Martian by Andy Weir
In the very near future, a series of unfortunate events results in astronaut Mark Watney left injured and alone on Mars. With only his wits and the supplies for a three month expedition, Watney has to figure out how to survive alone until he can reestablish contact with Earth and find a way home. Weir makes the science of survival both understandable and engaging, and Watney is charming and delightfully funny. Jump into his struggle for survival, all while your feet remain planted on solid earth.
You will never show up for a temp job, and end up solving the murder of a supermodel.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
When Robin walks into the offices of Private Investigator Cormoran Strike for a temp job, she has no idea that she’s going to be drawn into Strike’s investigation of the death of a famous supermodel. Strike is huge, rather grumpy, and - on first impression - a complete mess. Despite his rough exterior, Strike charmed his way right into my heart with his complicated past and clever mind. Robin’s temp assignment is only supposed to last a couple days, but before long she’s diving headlong into investigative work right beside Strike. Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, but this adult mystery series is nothing like Harry Potter (though you’ll never be a preteen wizard, either!).
Blackout by Connie Willis
In 2060, historians study the past by living through it. Willis has several books in her Oxford Time Travel series, and in Blackout (and the sequel All Clear) the historians are headed to World War II England. But after their jump back in time, they discover that time travel itself is glitching and there’s no way home. The four historians experience all elements of life in the Blitz, from air raids to codebreaking, all while trying to find a way back to their own time.
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
After waiting eight years for her fiance, the Marquess of Granville, to return from his travels and marry her, Clio Whitmore has finally had enough. But when the Marquess’s brother Rafe finds out she’s planning to break the engagement, he will do whatever it takes to make sure she walks down the aisle. Dare’s regency romance novels are always full of humor and energy, and she writes loveable heroines better than anyone. I’ll leave you to guess whether Clio and Rafe fall in love, but fair warning: this one gets saucy!
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
When April May happens across a giant, robot-like sculpture on her way home at 3 a.m., she thinks it’s an impressive bit of street art. Delighted, she takes a video, uploads it to YouTube, and goes to bed. When she wakes the next day, she discovers that these figures have suddenly appeared all over the world - and since April was the first to record any evidence of them, she’s also at the center of an international media spotlight. It’s tough to try and find out what these figures are when all eyes are on you. Given that you can’t leave the house, this definitely won’t happen to you.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
When Rachel agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, she has no idea that he left out a few details about his background. Like that he’s unfathomably rich. Or that he’s the most eligible bachelor in the entire country. You’ll probably never fall in love with the most eligible bachelor of any other country, either, so this book remains safely in the realm of problems you’ll never have.
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
Okay, I don’t have any interest in the murder part. But before the world shut down, I had tickets to visit Scotland’s Shetland Islands this May - a trip largely inspired by the BBC mystery series Shetland. I obviously won’t be making it to Shetland this year, but jumping into the Ann Cleeves books that inspired the show will have to serve as the next best thing. Raven Black is the first book in the series, in which my beloved Inspector Perez investigates a New Years’ Eve murder that leads to revelations from Shetland’s past.