The most recommended books about isolation

Who picked these books? Meet our 54 experts.

54 authors created a book list connected to isolation, and here are their favorite isolation books.
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Book cover of American Woman

Andy Mozina Author Of Tandem

From my list on literary with criminal protagonists.

Who am I?

I like books in which there are moral stakes, which sometimes draws me to stories with criminals, and I like when the character at the center of the problem is complex or destabilizes things. Dark humor always helps. Average people should be able to see themselves in some way in the criminal’s bad behavior or at least in their desires. I have published two story collections and two novels. My first collection of short stories won the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award. My fiction has appeared in Tin House, Southern Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. I'm a professor of English at Kalamazoo College. 

Andy's book list on literary with criminal protagonists

Andy Mozina Why did Andy love this book?

I’m fascinated by novels that treat famous real events from an insider perspective.

In this case, it’s the events following the Symbionese Liberation Army’s kidnapping of Patty Hearst in 1974. Fugitive SLA members, including a character based on Hearst, are sheltered by a former radical, Jenny Shimada (based on Wendy Yoshimura), who is also wanted by the FBI in connection with the bombing of draft offices.

Jenny is a sort of house mother to the volatile fugitives, who hope to write a book while in hiding to raise money for their cause, but inevitably she is drawn into their latest dangerous scheme. Filled with brilliant character studies, the novel astutely shows connections between the tortured personalities of individuals and the public acts they commit which end up shaping our culture. 

By Susan Choi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fictionalization of the Patty Hearst kidnapping focuses on Jenny Shimada, a Japanese-American woman who helps Pauline and her kidnappers during their stay in a New York State farmhouse.


Book cover of The Moth Girl

Karol Ruth Silverstein Author Of Cursed

From my list on disability and chronic illness rep in YA.

Who am I?

A big motivation for writing Cursed was what I saw as a dearth of authentic disability and chronic illness rep in books for kids. Where were the characters who were angry, messy, scared? Where were the kids in real pain—physically, emotionally, socially—who maybe weren’t surrounded by supportive friends and family and maybe didn’t handle their diagnoses with grace? When I was first diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at thirteen, I was all of the above—and then some. I’ve identified as disabled for 30+ years and am active in various disability groups and spaces. It’s my pleasure to champion kids’ books with authentic disability and chronic illness representation. 

Karol's book list on disability and chronic illness rep in YA

Karol Ruth Silverstein Why did Karol love this book?

In this diagnosis story, author Kamins chooses to use a fictional illness—lepidopsy—to perfectly emulate the otherworldly confusion and uncertainty of being diagnosed with a disease you have no context for. Suddenly, everything changes for Anna. Nothing makes sense. It’s disorienting, uncomfortable, and terrifying. I loved how the book shows the character figuring out how to navigate this new life step by step by misstep. Despite the fictional illness, Anna’s journey feels incredibly real.

By Heather Kamins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moth Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Flying doesn’t always mean freedom.
 

Anna is a regular teenaged girl. She runs track with her best friend, gets good grades, and sometimes drinks beer at parties.
 
But one day at track practice, Anna falls unconscious . . . but instead of falling down, she falls up, defying gravity in the disturbing first symptom of a mysterious disease.
 
This begins a series of trips to the hospital that soon become Anna’s norm. She’s diagnosed with lepidopsy: a rare illness that causes symptoms reminiscent of moths: floating, attraction to light, a craving for sugar, and for an unlucky few, more dangerous…


Book cover of The Metamorphosis

Luke Coulter Author Of City of Mann

From my list on seeing the world how it’s never been seen before.

Who am I?

Growing up in Ireland with a lot of Pink Floyd records, an active imagination, and no TV, I was almost destined to have a seemingly endless number of questions about the universe, our existence, and the purpose of it all. Finding that much could be learned from the tip of a pen (including that blue flavor is the best one) I began to read and make shapes and draw words of my own. Then, questioning the reasons I had questions, and seeking what could not be found, I found the answer to a single one—that there is far more to this world than we can ever see, and we indeed, are not alone.

Luke's book list on seeing the world how it’s never been seen before

Luke Coulter Why did Luke love this book?

His physicality transformed, Gregor awakes no longer a man, but instead, a giant grotesque creature.

As I read this masterpiece, I too understood how it is, to appear not how I desire. To sound different, to look different, to appear different than the paragon of myself I have created in my mind. And to strive to be more than this body I inhabit can give. But is this not the condition of us all?

A truly brilliant Kafka, this book created a world that is my own, yet unreal, and my reality yet a waking dream.

By Franz Kafka, Stanley Corngold (translator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Metamorphosis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

With this  startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The  Metamorphosis. It is the story of a  young man who, transformed overnight into a giant  beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to  his family, an outsider in his own home, a  quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing—though  absurdly comic—meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The  Metamorphosis has taken its place as one  of the most widely read and influential works of  twentieth-century…


Book cover of Gentleman Overboard

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau Author Of Memento: A Novel in Dreams, Thoughts, and Images

From Cordelia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Psychoanalyst Reader True friend Jazz fan Contemporary Art lover

Cordelia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau Why did Cordelia love this book?

This poignant story captured me: Henry Preston Standish, a single traveler on a cruise ship between Honolulu and Panama, unnoticed by anybody, slips on wet planks and falls into the Pacific Ocean. As his steamboat is further and further gliding away, Standish works on staying afloat. He is convinced he will be missed and the boat will return to rescue him. 

The author moves back and forth between Standish's thoughts about his life and his impending rescue and the people on board who notice his absence without suspecting any emergency. I was very moved following how Standish's hopes fade and how he comes to grips with remaining and dying alone in the middle of the ocean, as its author did many years later in the middle of Manhattan.

By Herbert Clyde Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gentleman Overboard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Out of print for over seventy years, Gentleman Overboard by Herbert Clyde Lewis is being rescued for today's readers to launch Boiler House Press's new series, Recovered Books.
Halfway between Honolulu and Panama, a man slips and falls from a ship. For crucial hours, as he patiently treads water in hope of rescue, no one on board notices his absence. By the time the ship's captain is notified, it may be too late to save him...

Rediscovered in 2009 by Brad Bigelow as part of tireless research for his popular Neglected Books website, Gentleman Overboard has since achieved the status…


Book cover of Haunted

Jason McGathey Author Of The Doom Statues

From my list on horror featuring a cursed location.

Who am I?

I’ve been a lifelong horror reader, really since first stumbling onto Stephen King in the 9th grade. There’s something about that genre that has held a particular fascination for me through the years, probably because the best works are some combination of suspenseful, well-written, and cathartic, as they really get your mind racing as to what you might do yourself in a given situation. If you’re lucky, they might even have something to say about the human condition as a whole. But given this prolonged interest and exposure to horror, it’s only natural I would eventually progress to giving it a stab myself.

Jason's book list on horror featuring a cursed location

Jason McGathey Why did Jason love this book?

This is a unique entry in that the cursed place is a framing device, for this collection of mostly disturbing tales. For his first-ever collection of short stories, Palahniuk brings his wretched cast of characters to a haunted house, where each in turn offers his or her own demented tale. They don’t all work, but a number of the stories really stick with you, and this spooky old house at the center of it ratchets the intensity up another level—it’s not a static situation they are in, there, so the plot progresses to its own warped conclusion on this front as well. 

By Chuck Palahniuk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Haunted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Haunted" is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of them to be precise. Twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you'll ever encounter - sometimes all at once. They are told by the people who have all answered the ad headlined 'Artists Retreat: Abandon your life for three months'. They are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of 'real life' that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But 'here' turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theatre where they are utterly isolated from the…


Book cover of The Cloud Roads

K. Eason Author Of Enemy

From my list on weird-ass (and wonderful) world-building fantasy.

Who am I?

I'm a long-time role-player/gamemaster and reader of SFF, and I've read, created, and played (and written!) a lot of stories. Good stories come from good characters. We all know that. But part of what makes characters good is that they're believable, and to me their believability is inextricable from the worlds they come from. A world-build—setting, weather, technology, magic, science, cultures, and languages—should BE as much of a character as the protagonist(s). While I admit a fond nostalgia for ye olde semi-Euro-medieval setting, I love a world-build that challenges or surprises me, and I love the characters and stories that come out of those worlds. I hope you do too.

K.'s book list on weird-ass (and wonderful) world-building fantasy

K. Eason Why did K. love this book?

Shapeshifting lizard people. Oh. You want me to say something else?

How about... a world like no other, peopled by all manner of beings (but no humans, which is honestly a delight). The setting is so fantastic, but also so meticulously designed—every settlement and civilization feels organic, fully realized, and unlike anything else. But what about the story—?

Moon doesn't know where he's from, but he knows he's the only shapeshifter he's ever met, and the only person with wings...and worse, he thinks he's part of the terrible Fell, a species that seems to be invasive and hostile and looks a lot like him.

Then he meets another Raksura, and learns how wrong he's been about everything, including himself. 

By Martha Wells,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Cloud Roads as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Series. "Wells...merrily ignores genre conventions as she spins an exciting adventure around an alien hero who anyone can identify with."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is - a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight.

An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself . . . someone…


Book cover of Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica

Ashley Shelby Author Of South Pole Station

From my list on the coldest place on earth.

Who am I?

I’m a Minnesotan, so I thought I was a cold-weather badass, but it wasn’t until my younger sister winter-overed at South Pole Station in the early 2000s that I realized that Minnesota is a balmy paradise compared with the ice chip at the bottom of the earth. Her adventures at 90 South inspired my interest in Antarctica, the history of how humans interact with extreme and dangerous natural environments, and the social dynamics of a community trying to survive in the most remote location on the planet. That interest grew so intense that I ended up spending four years researching and then writing a novel set on the seventh continent—South Pole Station.

Ashley's book list on the coldest place on earth

Ashley Shelby Why did Ashley love this book?

There is no book that better captures the unique human culture present at modern Antarctic research stations than the late Nicholas Johnson’s Big Dead Place, a frank, funny as hell, and at times savage chronicle of a year working support at McMurdo Station. Like my sister, who winter-overed at South Pole Station, Johnson worked in the galley, but it was the bureaucratic nonsense, present even at the farthest reaches of human civilization, that caught his incomparable eye for absurdity.

As I wrote South Pole Station, Johnson’s wry, searingly intelligent voice was always in my mind. To me, he is the epitome of the non-scientist drawn to the world’s most unforgiving workplace: a wry, brilliant journeyman whose humor had a razor-sharp edge but who cared deeply for the work he did and the people with whom he did it. This is my favorite book about Antarctica.

By Nicholas Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Big Dead Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Johnson’s savagely funny [book] is a grunt’s-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed community. It’s like M*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy.”—The Times of London


Book cover of Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19

Victoria Noe Author Of What Our Friends Left Behind: Grief and Laughter in a Pandemic

From my list on friendship and grief (and pandemics).

Who am I?

In 2006, I told a friend I wanted to write a book about grieving the death of a friend. Despite the fact that I’d never written a book before, she gave me her enthusiastic approval. Six months later she was dead. She inspired me to turn that book idea into a series of little books: the Friend Grief series. Just as I was finishing the last one, I began work on a full-length book that took me back to my work in the early days of AIDS. When COVID began, I returned to writing about friend grief. And I lost over a dozen friends while I wrote the book.

Victoria's book list on friendship and grief (and pandemics)

Victoria Noe Why did Victoria love this book?

Jennifer Haupt has collected a diverse, fascinating, and powerful group of writers who dig deep into the challenges we faced at the height of COVID.

The anthology, a fundraiser for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, features poems, essays, interviews, and more. I found the wide range of experiences and emotions both comforting and inspiring.

By Jennifer Haupt (editor), Garth Stein, Jenna Blum , Kwame Alexander

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alone Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Could there be a timelier gift to quarantined readers...? I doubt it." - The Washington Post "A heartening gathering of writers joining forces for community support." - Kirkus Reviews "Connects writers, readers, and booksellers in a wonderfully imaginative way. It's a really good book for a really good cause" - Bestselling author James Patterson ALONE TOGETHER: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 is a collection of essays, poems, and interviews to serve as a lifeline for negotiating how to connect and thrive during this stressful time of isolation as well as a historical perspective that will remain…


Book cover of All the Names

Amy Tector Author Of The Foulest Things

From my list on quirky archivists.

Who am I?

I’ve been an archivist at Canada’s national archives for more than twenty years. I love my job. Archives are, by their very nature, a collection of miscellany that weren’t created to be preserved or remembered. They are the scraps of paper and hurriedly sent emails produced while the world is out making history. As a result, they offer unselfconscious glimpses into the past. Archives are poorly understood, which means that the folks who decide to devote their professional lives to them are often a little quirky and a bit odd. This makes books featuring archivists celebrations of the off-kilter, the overlooked, and the frankly strange. 

Amy's book list on quirky archivists

Amy Tector Why did Amy love this book?

Written by Nobel Prize winning, libertarian communist (don’t worry about it, it’s a thing) author Jose Saramago, All the Names is a weird and joyful exploration of the grind of bureaucracy and the power of information to control lives. Unlike Bear, this is not an easy read. Saramago’s signature style features long, convoluted sentences, which confuse and disorient – much like plunging into complex archival research. The story focuses on Senhor José, a poorly socialised records clerk, trudging through his days in a faceless, nonsensical records centre. One day he connects with a particular file and the realisation that the pieces of paper he manages represent whole beautiful lives sends him on a journey that requires breathtaking bravery and the formation of new, if eccentric, friendships. A life-affirming read.

By José Saramago,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Names as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

José Saramago's mesmerizing, classic narrative about the loneliness of individual lives and the universal need for human connection.

Senhor José is a low-grade clerk in the city's Central Registry, where the living and the dead share the same shelf space. A middle-aged bachelor, he has no interest in anything beyond the certificates of birth, marriage, divorce, and death that are his daily routine. But one day, when he comes across the records of an anonymous young woman, something happens to him. Obsessed, Senhor José sets off to follow the thread that may lead…


Book cover of Flowers in the Attic

Staci Troilo Author Of Type and Cross

From my list on dysfunctional family drama to make you feel better.

Who am I?

Misery loves company, right? While I never wish ill on someone, I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one going through a loss, slight, or rejection. Family dysfunction novels remind me that the petty problems I get caught up in are nothing compared to what they could be. Sure, fiction frequently elevates these troubles from drama to melodrama, but I still experience relief—even though it may only be in the smallest way—focusing on someone else’s struggles. Sometimes I even find a solution to my own paltry issues. Who wouldn’t want that? And what writer wouldn’t want to help readers in that way?

Staci's book list on dysfunctional family drama to make you feel better

Staci Troilo Why did Staci love this book?

I read this book in high school and it messed. Me. Up. So much so that I remember it in vivid detail to this day and credit it with my desire to write dysfunctional family fiction.

I’d be hard-pressed in real life (thank God) to find a family suffering from issues ranging from incestuous relationships through moral superiority and unforgiving rigidity up to greed and murder… all of which feels like the tip of the iceberg.

Reading the tale of a family who has gone so far off the rails will, if nothing else, make you appreciate the mundane problems your own family has. And isn’t that why we read this genre?

By V.C. Andrews,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Flowers in the Attic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The haunting young adult gothic romance classic that launched Virginia Andrews' incredible best-selling career.

Up in the attic, four secrets are hidden. Four blonde, beautiful, innocent little secrets, struggling to stay alive...

Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie have perfect lives - until a tragic accident changes everything. Now they must wait, hidden from view in their grandparents' attic, as their mother tries to figure out what to do next. But as days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the siblings endure unspeakable horrors and face the terrifying realisation that they might not be let out of the attic after…