Open book floating in middle of circle of stacked books in a cozy bookstore

5 Great Book Recommendations for Social Distancing

With all this extra time on our hands, now is a great time to dive into some really good books. Here are our recommendations whether you're a bookworm or not.

Social distancing has given us all more spare time than we’ve had in a long time. With shelter-in-place orders, a lot of people have been looking for new and different ways to pass the time at home. I know not everyone is a reader, but now is as good a time as any to give it a shot (or another shot if you’ve tried in the past). Order physical books online. Download ebooks to read on your phone or tablet. Listen to audio books while you do other things. However you consume them, books are a great way to pass the time and can make you feel more productive compared to watching another TV show or movie. Whether you’re an avid reader looking for your next great read or a non-reader looking for somewhere to start, here are five great stand-alone novels and book series to read while you’re at home—arranged from least immersive to most, depending on how badly you need to escape the real world!

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gillies

Have you ever wondered about the strange force that is creativity? Have you ever stopped to think about how it comes about and manifests itself or why some of your ideas work perfectly while others fall apart before you can even get them out of your head? Elizabeth Gillies—author of the award-winning novel Eat, Pray, Love—explores the idea that imagination and creativity are “big magic” in this artistic self-help book. Although she discusses the concept through the lens of a writer, she emphasizes throughout the book that her wisdom on the magic of inspiration flows through all creative forms of expression, not just the ones she’s partial to. If you’ve found yourself with a desire to create more with all this newfound time on your hands, I would highly recommend this creatively invigorating book.

Cover image courtesy of Riverhead Books

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you’re more of a realistic fiction lover with a lot of family drama, The Immortalists may be your cup of tea. (Definitely make a cup of tea while you read it to complete the aesthetic.) The Gold siblings—Daniel, Vera, Klara, and Simon—sneak out on a hot summer day in 1969 on the wings of rumors about a fortune teller in the neighborhood. The fortunes she gives will inform the next five decades of the Gold family’s lives, which will have you wondering if fate truly exists or if it’s simply something we can blame when our life choices lead us to questionable ends. Told in parts for each sibling’s most significant moments, Chloe Benjamin’s novel takes us on a journey of family and finding one’s identity in a world that seems to want to tell you who you should be. Equally poignant and thought provoking, this book will stick with you long after you’re done reading.

Cover image courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? Now imagine that murder mystery is like the movie Groundhog Day (but with less Bill Murray). That’s what this book is like. Everyday our narrator wakes up in the body of a different guest staying at Blackheath manor. While the guest is always different, one thing remains the same: Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered, and the narrator has to figure out who and why. Living the same day over and over again, the unidentified narrator has to piece together the story bit by bit in the bodies he inhabits, but not without a mysterious figure trying to thwart his efforts at every turn. This novel will genuinely have you puzzled until the very end, and even if you think you have it figured out, chances are you probably don’t. Read this for a great page-turning mystery!

Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks

Related: Great Books for Students to Read This Summer

The All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Interested in something touted as “Twilight for adults?” Either that statement excites you because you loved Twilight in its heyday or it made you cringe. While the initial elements of a vampire and forbidden love sound familiar, this story is far from a teen romance. Diana Bishop—professor, scholar, and reluctant witch—is conducting research on the history of alchemy at the University of Cambridge when she meets brilliant scientist—and vampire—Matthew Clairmont. Thus we’re thrust into an epic love story with deadly consequences. Not only are Diana and Matthew being hunted for breaking a long-standing covenant that forbids interspecies relationships, but Diana has also dug up a long-lost manuscript with the answers to the origin of supernatural creatures, and all the other witches, vampires, and daemons want it. A tale full of dangerous creatures and destined romance, this story bleeds an atmosphere of history and magic that will suck you in and away from this crazy world.

Cover image courtesy of Penguin Books

The Great Library series by Rachel Caine

Do you ever think about what life would be like if certain crucial moments in history happened differently or not at all? Jess Brightwell lives in London in the year 2031, but this isn’t the near future you might expect. In this world, the Great Library of Alexandria never burned down and the printing press was never invented. All countries of the world are united under the governing power of the Great Library, which seeks to preserve original books and maintain power by controlling the spread of knowledge and information. Jess and his family are book smugglers, running illegal books to sell on the black market. But when Jess’s dad sends him away to become a Library scholar, Jess will come to question everything about what the Library stands for, the nature of his own family, and where his own allegiances truly lie. A gorgeously spun tale about the corruption of power and fighting for the greater good, this five-book series will keep you immersed until the very end.

Cover image courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Books

Bonus recommendation: The Harry Potter series

Look, either you’ve already read Harry Potter a hundred times in your life or it has never held your interest. There’s no in between, and you can’t convince me otherwise. But as die-hard Potterheads (me included) will tell you, one of the most beautiful aspects of the story is how immersive the world is. Nothing will take you out of the frustration and scariness of our current situation quite like going off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with the Boy Who Lived.

Related: 10 Fiction Picks for College Bookworms

From the CollegeXpress Team, we hope everyone is staying healthy and sane during this crisis. Maybe one of these recommendations will help you escape, even for a little while, and bring some wonder back into your life. Now, go make like Harry and hole yourself up in your room!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets via GIPHY

If you’re looking for even more book recommendations, check out the CollegeXpress Team’s best suggestions for summer!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

book recommendations coronavirus COVID-19 fun hobbies reading

About Kelli Dolan

Kelli Dolan

Kelli Dolan is the Senior Assistant Editor & Counselor Communications Coordinator for CollegeXpress. Her day-to-day includes editing and writing CollegeXpress articles, running the CollegeXpress Counselors social media platforms, and basically just doing all things CollegeXpress. When she’s not editing other people’s work, she's writing for fun, favoring fiction stories and poetry. You could also potentially find her reading, playing video games, or hanging out with her dog, Athena, and red bearded dragon, Freya.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.

Lorena Bacallao

Lorena Bacallao

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress was the foundation of my college search process. Because of CollegeXpress, I was able to make a more informed and confident decision as to where it was best to pursue my higher education. I have recommended this website to fellow peers and for first-generation students like me. It’s a website I will continue to promote because of how simple it was to use and how many opportunities were offered to me at my fingertips!

Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.

Tinuola Dada

Tinuola Dada

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2015

I am very excited to be this year's recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship. This scholarship will bring me ever closer to my academic and professional goals. CollegeXpress has been an exceptional resource to me, and I recommend it to all rising seniors as they begin to navigate the college application process.

Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro


For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Paul Smith's College

Paul Smiths, NY

Spring Hill College

Mobile, AL

Hofstra University

Hempstead, NY

Samford University

Birmingham, AL

Gardner-Webb University

Boiling Springs, NC