At sundown on March 3 to sundown March 4, people across the United States are vowing to unplug for 24 hours. That means no computers, no TV, no Facebook, no anything digital for a full 1,440 minutes. If you go to nationaldayofunplugging.com, you can even see what numerous people will be doing while unplugged (and you can post your own vow, as well). Some people are unplugging to be with family. Others are unplugging to connect offline with friends. And many are unplugging so they can enjoy the great outdoors uninterrupted. If you’re a book lover like I am, you may want to unplug to get a good read in.
I asked a few friends to recommend some good books to read during National Day of Unplugging, and came away with a long list of books they couldn’t put down. Here are a few favorites from that list. Of course, you won’t have time to read all 10 in one day, but with all that free time, I’m sure you can fit in 2 or 3. Also, if you have a favorite book to add, leave it in the comments.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Note: I start with this classic because it’s the one I’m reading right now. This is a long story about the life of Jane Eyre, which I find to be truly satisfying and compelling.
From publisher: “Orphaned at an early age, Jane Eyre, leads a lonely life until she finds a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There she meets the mysterious Mr. Rochester and sees a ghostly woman who roams the halls at night. What is the sinister secret that threatens Jane and her new found happiness?”
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford
From publisher: Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Note: I read this book in a matter of three days. There were many times I needed to re-read passages just to get the full effect of what Coates was sharing, and other times when I just needed to set the book down and digest his words. His language is beautiful, and the timely subject is personal and heartbreaking.
From publisher: Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer difficult questions about race issues in America in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
The Dry Grass of August, by Anna Jean Mayhew
From publisher: On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there–cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally. Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, by Susanna Cahalan
From publisher: When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. “A fascinating look at the disease that…could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life” (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.
Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
Note: Now an HBO series starring some big names, including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and more.
From publisher: Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.
All our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai
Note: This one is the next book on my personal reading list.
From publisher: You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed…because it wasn’t necessary.
Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.
But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.
A Manual For Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, by Lucia Berlin
Note: Lucia Berlin was mostly unknown during her life. It wasn’t until 11 years after her death when she rose to sudden literary acclaim, thanks to this particular collection of stories.
From publisher: A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance
From publisher: Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Note: This duo is behind the blog freakonomics.com, and have published more than 8,000 blog entries that are read by a cult following.
From publisher: When Freakonomics was first published, the authors started a blog—and they’ve kept it up. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. In When to Rob a Bank, they ask a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken?
What would you add?
Crissi Langwell is the author of several fiction and non-fiction books, and lives in Sonoma County with her husband, blended family of three teenagers and a ridiculous teenage dog. Find her at crissilangwell.com.