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Bibliotherapy: Reading in the Time of Coronavirus


Omari Home Bookshelf Photo

My bookshelf at home

My book collection occupies more of my sightline these days as my home office has become my work office. Seeing the article “The Exquisite Pain of Reading in Quarantine” in The Atlantic this weekend, I was motivated to more actively analyze those bookshelf contents for recent reads that—in my opinion—might help you process the moment’s crisis and distancing. My six suggestions are below:

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin – The unfolding crisis of war in the mid-20th century was unnerving and grim. This Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicle of how the Roosevelts navigated it all—that is, led—from their post in the White House is a potent dose of perspective and hope.

Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse – This text is central to virtual reality pioneers aspiring to make digital spaces feel boundless and spontaneous, and it explores core dimensions of humanity and the infinite possibilities of embracing the unknown outcomes of connectivity.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami –  I read an English translation of Murakmi’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles in 2019 and chose to re-enter the highly imaginative and immersive worlds he creates by, earlier this year, reading Killing Commendatore, which involves a portraiture artist, Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, and a neighbor character with an affinity for great design.

Super Better by Jane McGonigal – These days, some people feel anxious in wanting to maximize limited minutes available impact, while others are wondering how to use a new abundance of discretionary time to prepare for the future. Super Better gives readers accessible strategies for leading incrementally, ever- healthier and -happier lives, all backed by scholarly game theory, which makes it fun too.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan –  As we long for days of being able to escape our current confines, Washington Black exists as both a heart-wrenching novel of slavery and a tale of exploration, discovery, and post-traumatic growth that makes trips to unknown places less scary and more wonder rich.

Leadership on the Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Martin Linsky –  List-topping leadership challenges of the COVID-19 crisis are managing ambiguity while harnessing curiosity and tension to keep teams productive and healthy. The ideas of Heifetz and Linsky ask us as managers to engage both hearts and minds in our proud tasks of service to communities.

BONUS: Sula by Toni Morrison –  Our CultureSource staff is reading Morrison’s Sula this spring, as a bibliotherapy exercise that culminates with a facilitated dialogue about the work. We are reading this to make sure that amid stress and illness, we are still relying on great art to help us interrogate meaning and the capacity of words to conjure imagery, emotion, or clarity.