English Department Literature and Film Quarantine Toolkit (Archived May 17, 2021)

Students and professors from the English Department share what they’re reading, writing, viewing, and doing during this difficult and isolating time. This is a way to keep our literary community vibrant even when we are physically distant!

Kelsey Brown, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan– I can’t help myself, it’s such an easy reread and it really lifts the spirits!
  • The Female of the Species by Lionel Shriver
  • Selected Verse of Frederico Garcia Lorca

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

Quarantine writing project: My Senior Writing Project! It’s a collection of poetry surrounding home and the complications of growing up. Also, a Research Paper on Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1 and how feminism interacts with the academic world of musicology.

Quarantine Distractions: Watching Netflix and crocheting! I’ve made two rather large blankets so far… Now I’m just waiting for more yarn…

Brittany Boyd, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • The Diviners by Libba Bray. A 1920’s ghost story and a murder mystery! Immersive, great to escape
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Greek mythology, but gay.
  • Simon Vs the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. A heartfelt story about a gay teen who is outed to his school.

Favorite films or series for the quarantine:

  • Any and all disney. But my favorites: Hercules, Tangled, Moana.
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower – now on Netflix!
  • The Harry Potter movies. For me, the first 3. Then they get stressful, which I don’t need any more of right now.

Quarantine writing project: Writing some poetry to get how you’re feeling out on paper.

Quarantine Distractions: Walks with my dogs! It’s good to get outside right now.
Also reading! Great escape from the current situation.

Patti Frick, faculty member

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Does love become sweeter/better in a time of epic-scale disease? Is love a disease? How are love and anger related? (the Spanish word colera refers to the disease and also means “rage”).
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. A different kind of quarantine: -the novel’s protagonist–a Russian Count– is forced to live out his days under house arrest in a grand old hotel because he is considered a political enemy. His “what to do when you’re stuck at home” list includes parenting an abandoned child, falling in love, helping the staff to remain human in a time of political upheaval and loss, and plotting his own escape after decades of captivity.
  • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. Based on the real-life cholera epidemic in London in the 19th century, this book tells the story of the epidemic, how and where it began, its human toll (emotional, social, and biological), and the dedicated detective work of Dr. John Snow, a young physician, who took on the medical establishment to find the source of the disease–a popular water pump in the heart of Soho.

Favorite films or series for the quarantine:

Quarantine Distractions: Journal writing, making soup.

Shannon Lakanen, faculty member

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • Madness, Rack, and Honey – Mary Ruefle (because every time I return, it feels brand new all over again)
  • The Murmur of Bees – Sofia Segovia (I dove into this at the start of shelter-in-place before I realized the majority of it takes place during the 1918-19 influenza epidemic)
  • Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala (I just finished this and cannot recommend it highly enough … as stunning an exploration of grief as Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking)

Favorite films for the quarantine: Rushmore

Quarantine writing project: Adding an essay to the collection I’d thought I’d finished during my fall sabbatical … travel & pandemic, the possibility of never returning to places I was sure I’d revisit, the psychological effects of having no travels planned in the foreseeable future (for the first time in over 12 years).

Quarantine Distractions: Hammocking, baking between 1 and 5 am.

John Gill, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • I Am A Hero by Kengo Hanazawa, a Japanese manga about a schizophrenic man surviving the zombie apocalypse while struggling to realize what is real and what is not.
  • Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the detailed and disorienting account of Thompson’s coverage of the presidential election between Nixon and McGovern.
  • The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, a terrifying horror novel about a group of home invaders seeking a sacrifice to stop a supposed doomsday prophecy.

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: Good Time (2017) dir. by the Safdie Brothers

Quarantine writing project: Finishing a short story about a group of friends dealing with the aftermath of one’s suicide attempt.

Quarantine Distractions: Cleaning the entire house, watching my friends skateboard, and continuing to learn Spanish.

Kaitlyn Bader, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (a book that’s been on my shelf forever that I hadn’t got around to reading yet, but felt appropriate now)
  • New and Selected Poems – Mary Oliver (my favorite required text from Tammy to always reread)
  • Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi (a current requirement for Dr. Burns’ Adolescent Literature class that has some really interesting racial disparity connections)

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: The Fighter – David O. Russell

Quarantine writing project: So far, just journaling and homework. Hoping to begin writing more into the summer.

Quarantine Distractions: Cooking new dinner recipes for my family, and burning the occasional peanut butter cookies.

Mary Jackson, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchet
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Rereading Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: John Wick

Quarantine writing project: My senior project, Forgotten Things.

Quarantine Distractions: Playing Animal Crossing and Borderlands 3.

Margaret Koehler, faculty member

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  • The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
  • Chocolate House Treason: A Mystery of Queen Anne’s London by David Fairer

Favorite films or series for the quarantine:

  • Bright Star – a magical biopic of John Keats and Fanny Brawne, directed by Jane Campion
  • The Innocence Files and Mrs. America on Netflix

Quarantine writing project: My sabbatical book project on poetry and medicine in 18th-century Britain. My research on the history of disease and doctors (and the responses of patients and poets!) has been timelier than I could have imagined.

Quarantine Distractions: Jogging (with my 7-year-old on a bike and my 11-year-old on roller blades – single file of course), ordering plants, and obsessively revising my Kroger pickup list.

Beth Lopez, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
  • Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige
  • Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: Kill Bill Volumes I & II

Quarantine writing project: Poems about the dreams (or nightmares, sadly) I have.

Quarantine Distractions: Finding new recipes, videogame.

Suzanne Ashworth, faculty member

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

I love memoir and I love reading what’s just making the scene, what’s breaking new ground. Right now, I’m immersed in Jen Shapland’s My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir about Jen’s story and Carson’s, about writing, depression, and love.

In the last year, I was totally captivated by Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl about gender, science, love, friendship, and trees. And completely fascinated by Maia Szalavitz’s Unbroken Brain, an addiction memoir that redefines the relationship between addiction, learning, and trauma.

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: Free Solo. An affirmation of the human spirit and our capacity to defy gravity.

Quarantine writing project: I’m working on my book project, Perverse Feelings: Poe and American Masculinity.

Quarantine Distractions: The doggos. Murphy, Jojo, Maezie, and the old-man Bodie.

Beth Rigel Daugherty, faculty member

Top 3 books for quarantine life:(I don’t know that these are so much books for quarantine life as just books an older and soon-to-be-retired academic happens to be reading!)

  • Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, Margaret Renkl. Combines family memoir with observations of nature.
  • Late-Life Love, Susan Gubar. Memoir of year in life of husband/wife deciding to leave their home of 21 years –“I am sick and he is old, but a fierce affection binds us to each other and to this country house, which we will have to leave” is the opening sentence – combined with commentary on the portrayal of aging lovers in literature (it’s second marriage for both, he is 17 years older than she).
  • The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures, The Library of Congress — sumptuous book on history of card catalog, the LC role in that history, and pictures of library cards of famous authors of all kinds along with illustrations from LC collection.
  • The First Kristin: The Story of a Naming, Kristin Czarnecki — memoir of a Woolfian colleague whose parents lost a 3-year-old child named Kristin (after the heroine of Sigrid Undset’s trilogy) and then named writer Kristin as well.
  • individual poems, such as “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” by Adam Zagajewski, “Otherwise,” by Jane Kenyon, “The Low Road,” by Marge Piercy, “People” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
  • “Why Anxious Readers Under Quarantine Turn to Mrs. Dalloway,” Evan Kindley, The New Yorker (April 10, 2020).

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: None. TV, though: BBC and PBS NewsHour, along w/ Colbert, Myers, Oliver, Bee, and Maddow shows from their bunkers!

Quarantine writing project: (planned) Woolf’s essays manuscript; postponed personal/critical presentation on teaching voice for Woolf conference panel on incorporating the personal in literary criticism

Quarantine Distractions: cooking dinner; taking walks in neighborhood, watching spring arrive; watching a Great Courses set of videos on The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World – somehow comforting, providing much-needed perspective; will soon be gardening; well, weeding.

Christian Keener, student

Top 3 books for quarantine life:

  • City Of Bones by Cassandra Clare – She’s still developing prequels and sequels to this exhilarating fantasy series. Good for teens and up, and has been adapted into a TV show (that’s on Hulu) and a movie. Currently she’s writing book 14, Chain of Iron. Book 13 came out in March and is titled Chain of Gold.
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – This autobiography feels brand-new every time I read it! (I don’t read biographies that often, but love this one and Becoming by Michelle Obama). Definitely recommend for anyone in American Lit classes this semester. Ironically, I first read this in my 11th grade US Literature course, and have loved it ever since!
  • One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus – I love mysteries, and when I read this one, it felt like it pushed the genre to new heights. Meet Pretty Little Liars mixed with The Breakfast Club. Can’t recommend highly enough for people who love mysteries.

Favorite films or series for the quarantine: 

  • Hoodwinked (I’ve seen this like 10-15 times, and it’s great to watch with any age. It’s a retelling of the Red Riding Hood story and other fairy tales). I just love how it’s set in a forest, and helps me get through not getting to really go places, outside of my walks.
  • Murder, She Wrote (I have the complete series at my house, and love how every episode goes to someplace new with a new adventure!)

Quarantine writing project: Journaling about the psychological effects of the quarantine. Doing short responses to some Dark Romanticist poetry (Poe, Hawthorne, etc.)

Quarantine Distractions: Going on walks with my dog, Butterscotch. (He just turned 12 last week!)