A Room of One's Own: Reading While Sheltering in Place

James Sherman, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Girl reading a book on her tablet

Sure we’re still staying put, and while social distancing has nipped our spring plans in the bud, it’s also great to have the time to slow down and read! Why not take a look at some fiction about people who are also sheltering in place?

After the stay home order, I wondered what my fellow librarians were reading, and noticed that some of them were engrossed in books that featured people in some form of lock down, either by choice or by circumstances. The titles they shared led to this novel list.

So if you’re not feeling too claustrophobic, here are some works of fiction about people sequestered from the wider world. Travel from your rooms to their rooms, and see how your experiences compare.

Books About People Who Are Stuck in One Place for Readers Who Are Stuck in One Place

Book cover for The Decameron
The Decameron
Boccaccio, Giovanni

Set in Renaissance Italy during the Black Death, this classic is a story full of stories. A group of young men and women shelter in a country villa, passing the time telling diverting and evocative tales for the ten days that they are sequestered.

Book cover for A Gentleman in Moscow
A Gentleman in Moscow
Towles, Amor

In this witty and wise book, a poet of an aristocratic family is held under house arrest by the Bolsheviks in a grand hotel, but doesn’t let that dampen his spirit as he makes the time for adventure and culture and maybe even love.

Book cover for The Shining
The Shining
King, Stephen

A boy with supernatural vision is snowbound with his parents, who are the caretakers of a grand but empty hotel. As the isolation drags on, the boy sees things, Dad gets writer’s block, and things get weird.

Book cover for The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

This early feminist novel and domestic horror story with gothic tones features an unnamed narrator who is effectively trapped by her husband in an attic with terrible interior design and an even worse secret.

Book cover for We Have Always Lived in the Castle
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Jackson, Shirley

An unreliable narrator, neo-gothic setting and tense atmosphere combine to provide a twisted modern fairy tale about an 18-year old girl and her beloved older sister living in the cloistered aftermath of an unspeakable event. If your tastes run more to straight-up horror, try Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. 5h 32m.

Book cover for Everything, Everything
Everything, Everything
Yoon, Nicola

A teen in L.A. with severe immunodeficiency is essentially allergic to everything beyond her carefully sealed and sanitized house, with books as her trusty companions. Then a new family moves next door and a complicated romance begins.

Book cover for Against Nature
Against Nature
Huysmans, J.-K.

The opposite of being trapped in a place by your own body is being trapped by your own mind: a privileged aesthete who refuses to leave his mansion in the environs of Paris amuses himself with the diversions created by his fortune and his obscure tastes. An outright scandal when published and a favorite of Oscar Wilde.

Book cover for And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None
Christie, Agatha

By Agatha Christie. A group of strangers are invited under mysterious circumstances to a big house on a small, isolated island. After one of them is killed, they begin to suspect each other of being the murderer. As dark secrets are revealed, another of them is murdered, then another, then another...