The 5 Books That Can Help Get You Through Coronavirus Isolation

Since we’re all stuck in coronavirus self-isolation with no specific end in sight, now might be the right time to get back into the habit of reading—or even give your mindset a makeover.

These five critically acclaimed nonfiction and self-help books can help you stay positive, set new goals, or even pick up a brand new good habit or two, during social distancing. They can also help you put self-isolation, silence, and solitude in perspective, allowing you to think more productively about our current circumstances.

Coronavirus quarantine is difficult for all of us, but there’s no reason you can’t find a silver lining and make some personal changes along the way.

Celeste Headlee
Celeste Headlee | Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women 2019

Do Nothing: How To Break Away From Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Celeste Headlee

If you’ve ever wanted to imbue your moments with more value and substance, Celeste Headlee’s guide to living less efficiently and more meaningfully can help you find your way.

Headlee, an award-winning journalist, draws from fields like neuroscience, psychology, and history to explain why so our post-industrialization obsession with clock-watching and productivity is harmful.

Instead, she encourages readers to find what they’re best at and work with their natural talents to create a life worth living, rather than fill every moment with busy work and chores. (A perfect fit for coronavirus quarantine, if there ever was one.)

Silence: The Power of Quiet In a World Full of Noise, Thich Nhat Hanh

Especially if you live alone, you might be finding the self-isolation quiet a little unnerving. But Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and well-known author, thinks you should harness the power of silence instead. Weaving in meaningful parables about the inherent value of stillness in a world full of chaos and noise, Hanh shares practical mindfulness advice for even the most stressed-out readers.

How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, Jenny Odell

Right now, many people are tempted to pick up their phones and never put them down again until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. But Jenny Odell suggests that all that information overload offers the opposite of freedom.

In this riveting nonfiction book, Odell advocates for the power of doing, well, nothing—especially when the world wants you to do everything at once. If you’re a workaholic who suddenly has a lot of time on your hands, or if you don’t know quite how to feel about the hours stretching in front of you during these uncertain times, this book can help light a path for you.

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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits & Break Bad Bones, James Clear

For many people, the forced isolation of the coronavirus outbreak could provide a time for self-reflection and even paradigm shifts. That’s exactly what James Clear advocates in this ultra-digestible, step-by-step guide to changing your daily habits for the better (starting with the tiniest of actions and moving towards greater goals).

Whether you want to make larger changes, like finally quitting smoking or getting in shape, or smaller ones, like reorganizing your office, you’ll find some practical nuggets of wisdom here.

How To Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself, Robert Paul Smith

Running out of Netflix series to binge-watch during COVID-19 quarantine? Why not revisit some long-forgotten fun activities and rediscover some childlike joy along the way?

Offering instructions on everything from folding paper airplanes to making bracelets out of backyard items, Robert Paul Smith’s antidote to boredom can bring nostalgia to adults and brand-new fun to today’s kids.