Three Books for Wallowing in Quarantine Fear and Three Books for Distracting Yourself From the World

BY GABBIE BRANDT

It’s no question that we’re living in a crazy time right now. Being quarantined at home means switching back and forth between wallowing in the state of the world and desperately trying to distract yourself from thinking about the COVID-19 situation. So, since now is the perfect time to get some reading in, I thought I’d give you some options for either mood.

Do you want to go full-on pandemic acceptance and really dive headfirst into wallowing in your quarantine sadness? Do you want to take a break from constantly hearing about COVID-19 on the news and switch it up by constantly reading about very similar but fictional pandemic situations? Great! I’ve got three choices for you to really reinforce that fear that we’re about to be living out the plot of a dystopian novel.

  • No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz: Wouldn’t it be awesome if you were quarantined in a mega mall instead of your sad tiny apartment?? NO. In this book, a bunch of people that happen to be in a mall during a deadly outbreak are quarantined as basically everyone dies around them. This book will freak you out so much that you’ll never want to visit the mall after all this is over. You’re welcome!
  • The Stand by Stephen King: Thinking about how society is going to have to rebuild after this pandemic is over? Great! Make those thoughts horrible by reading a viral outbreak story from one of the most messed-up minds of our generation. Plus, it’s over 800 pages long, so maybe by the time you’re done reading it, quarantine will be over and you can go outside to see how horrible your own world has become.
  • The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: Can’t think of how this virus could get any worse? Vampires! What if instead of flu-like symptoms, everyone that became infected by this virus turned into blood-hungry monsters? And not the romantic Twilight kind. I’m talking about gory-horror-movie vampires. On the plus side, maybe it’ll remind you that our current situation could be worse?

Want to distract yourself from all this madness and pretend like nothing is happening? Here’s some less-scary choices for you!

  • Rumple Buttercup by Matthew Gray Gubler: This is a charming and uplifting kids book by my favorite Criminal Minds actor. I don’t think it should be limited to kids, however, because the message at its core about self-acceptance should be taught to everyone. Plus the illustrations are super cute. And there’s no mention of a global pandemic in it! Yay!
  • Emma by Jane Austen: I just finished reading this book and guess what—no one dies or gets sick in it!! While there is a teeny-tiny subplot that Emma’s father is overly paranoid that he will catch a cold from drafty windows, he never does. This book is just happy and will surely distract you for a while from COVID-19 fears. 
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Listen. I know you’ve read them before. I know you’ve read them multiple times. But think back to the last time you read them—how long ago was it? Too long! Being stuck at home for weeks means it’s the perfect time to read them again! Plus, when all of this is over, you’ll be fresh-from-the-page and defeat everyone at Harry Potter trivia night.

For real though, I hope you’re all staying safe and healthy at home and catching up on some of your for-pleasure reading. And washing your hands!

What I Read in March

BY JAEDA ENGBERG

With spring break and the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, March seemed to last an entire year. This resulted in a work from home status and lots of reading. Thankfully, I had prepared well in advance for this unfortunate and indefinite time of quarantining by checking out several books from the Fargo Public Library. Throughout the month, I could be found cozied under a blanket (plus snuggled with animals) with a mug full of coffee as my brain was fed with a wild variety of poetry and fiction.

Here is a list of what I read in March. All books can be found at the Fargo Public Library.

Bloom in Reverse by Teresa Leo, 5/5 stars

Bloom in Reverse (Pitt Poetry Series): Teresa Leo: 9780822962977 ...

As implied by its title, this collection does life backwards. Starting with death and melancholy and ending with solace and love, Bloom in Reverse follows life after a friend’s suicide, a toxic relationship, and the relatable (and cringey) experiences of dating. All emotions and events tie together in some form or fashion, creating a beautifully mesmerizing book that will leave you thinking: Did I just read about my life? Well, that’s how I felt anyway. Just read this and come back to me with your review. 

Blowout by Denise Duhamel, 4/5 stars

Blowout (Pitt Poetry Series): Duhamel, Denise: 9780822962366 ...

Blowout covers years of love, variations of love, from falling out of love to falling in love, ex relationships, desire, cheating, and healing. This relatable subject matter will be of interest to any reader, and Duhamel’s interesting conversational language will captivate you until the last page. 

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, 5/5 stars

Amazon.com: Don't Call Us Dead: Poems (9781555977856): Smith ...

This celebrated collection sequences violence, the afterlife, queer experiences, racism, and police treatment toward black individuals. Smith’s daring and raw language encompasses the danger and outrage of living as a queer African American man in the modern world. Don’t Call Us Dead will make you cry, give you courage, make you angry, and make you proud of Smith’s strength and vulnerability. 

Earthbound by Dee LeRoy, 3/5 stars

Earthbound: Poems by Dee LeRoy

I was really excited about this book but ended up being let down. Earthbound is a simple tribute to the universe and nature. It is meditative and lovely, but I found myself drifting off and grateful that it was such a short collection. This may be for others, but it’s not the one for me. 

Eye Level by Jenny Xie, 5/5 stars

Amazon.com: Eye Level: Poems (9781555978020): Xie, Jenny: Books

Wow, this collection was stunning. Focusing on life as an immigrant, Eye Level embodies the fast paced, ever moving travels across the world as the speaker’s observations lead her to ask herself many pressing questions regarding life as an outsider. 

Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo, 5/5 stars

Amazon.com: Four Reincarnations: Poems eBook: Max Ritvo: Kindle Store

I received a free copy of this book from Milkweed Editions, and I read it in one sitting as soon as I got it in the mail. Holy, this is one of my top five favorite books I have ever read. Ritvo passed away in 2016 at age twenty five from a long battle with cancer, and this poetry collection was published shortly after his death. Four Reincarnations is an intimate look at death, suffering, love, counting down the days in a hospital, and loneliness while battling a tragic disease.

The Smoke of Horses by Charles Rafferty, 5/5 stars

The Smoke of Horses (American Poets Continuum): Charles Rafferty ...

The Smoke of Horses consists of prose poems covering the mundane with slight twists of pure imagination. If you didn’t think deer, dead mice, a smoke detector, and more can be interesting and full of deeper meaning, then think again. Rafferty’s collection will leave you pondering your surroundings and the wild stories you can create just by looking around you. 

Time of Useful Consciousness by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 5/5 stars

New Directions Publishing | Time of Useful Consciousness

It’s no doubt that Ferlinghetti is an absolute legend. Published when he was 93 years old, Time of Useful Consciousness authentically takes readers back to the 1950s when the Beat Generation was thriving. Lovers of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and others will equally admire Ferlinghetti’s electrifying voice. I can’t describe this poetry collection. Just know that if you are a poet or avid and explorative reader, you should be reading work by all the Beats. 

Mystery

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle, 5/5 stars

Dear Wife: A Novel: Belle, Kimberly: 9780778308591: Amazon.com: Books

I’m a sucker for a great and original mystery novel. Going into this, I thought it was going to be another Gone Girl (which I loved but feel it has been overdone), but man, was I proved wrong. Dear Wife will have your eyes glued to the pages and your mind racing as to what phenomenal twist will finalize this book. Surprised you will be, but disappointed you will not.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, 4/5 stars

Amazon.com: One of Us Is Lying (9781524714680): McManus, Karen M ...

This was a little young for me, but an eye-catching read, nonetheless. Think of Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club and you get One of Us Is Lying. Filled with romance, cliques, mystery, and four suspects of a murder, this novel will have you finishing it in one sitting. 

Ordering Books Online: A Perfect Quarantine Activity

BY MADDIE SCHMIDT

Right now in our world, there is a lot of chaos and uncertainty. We know it will soon pass, but for the time being, how do we entertain ourselves while stuck in quarantine? Well, for many, we read books.

When you have read all the books on your shelf that you have been meaning to read for months or maybe years (which will now happen quite quickly, most likely), there are several websites that offer cheap used books and that will put your money toward a good cause. With many physical libraries and bookstores closed, I have compiled a list of my favorite sites to order some new books to dig into:

Better World Books | eBay Stores
  1. Better World Books: This company does a cool thing called “Book For Book: Every time you purchase a book from BetterWorldBooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.” Used books range in price from $2-$6 on average, but BWB also sells new books at regular prices. Another fun thing about Better World Books is that you’ll get an email “from the books” you order, thanking you for picking them.
Half Price Books Logo Vector - (.SVG + .PNG) - SeekLogoVector.Com

2. Half Price Books: HPB is a family-owned business, even though it has gotten large and well-known since its inception in 1972. Through their “Million Book Donation Project,” HPB has donated books to organizations like daycares, schools, and nonprofits. In addition to their usually-less-than-half-price books, they also sell many “rare finds” and collectible books.

thrift.books on eBay

3. Thrift Books: Thrift Books sells really reasonable donated books. Their statement says they believe reading is empowering, educating, critical, and a welcomed escape. That’s why they have rescued old books, to “shape another mind, share another story, and teach a bit of wisdom.” That’s something I can support.

Small Press Distribution

4. Small Press Distribution: *shameless plug* Although SPD sells only new books, this is where you will find unique literature published by indie presses (including New Rivers Press!). Plus, who doesn’t love the feeling of a brand-new book in their hands? The website allows you to search by publisher, which makes it easy to find all of NRP’s books in one place. You can click here to order our just-published literary nonfiction book, Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Identity.

Something New for Your Literature Needs

BY AZIM USMANOV

The topic of Russian classic short stories might seem not very prominent during the times of panic and crisis around, not only NRP’s home at MSUM’s campus, but the whole world. COVID-19 has dealt effect on our normal daily lives by drastically limiting our social interactions and headlining all the news articles. In this time of self-isolation, we are granted a lot of free time that we should devote to exploration of new horizons within the parameters of our homes. Reading new literature might perform the role of a distractor from the present situation and be used as a relaxation medicine as it allows us to dive into completely different environments.

Having grown up on Eastern European literature, I chose multiple short stories and novels to help us surround ourselves with a different atmosphere. I hope these Russian literature classics will brighten your day with their unique aesthetics full of foreign culture.

  1. “The Chameleon” by Anton Chekhov: Chekhov’s stories consist of comedy, and “The Chameleon” is not an exception. It tells a story of police officer Ochumelov, and presents a deep truth about human nature described by means of satire.
  2. “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol: Nikolai Gogol is one of my personal favorite authors, due to the orthodox plots that contain unrealistic circumstances and mysticism. “The Nose” is one of his short stories touching such topics as society and class, identity, and somewhat olfactory perception, which focuses on appearance and identity perception.
  3. “Mumu” by Ivan S. Turgenev: This story of a dog named Mumu and its rescuer Gerasim portrays the theme of cruelty of the Russian empire. The brutal serfdom of Gerasim is represented through his friendship with his dog throughout the story. Fun fact! “Mumu” was written while Turgenev was imprisoned for writing an obituary for Nikolai Gogol.
  4. “The Conversation Between the Drunk Man and the Sober Imp” by Anton Chekhov: In this piece Chekhov writes about a conversation between a man and an imp. The imp is worried that people are already spoiled creatures even without the influence of imps.

March: Small Press Month is Upon Us

BY MADDIE SCHMIDT madelyn.schmidt@go.mnstate.edu

March is Small Press Month! What is Small Press Month, you ask? Small Press Month is a way to celebrate publishers and authors around the world. It aims to highlight small publishing houses themselves, as well as the various writers they represent.

What is unique about small presses?

Small presses often work with a diverse, unique array of writers, working to publish those literary voices that big publishers won’t. People who work at small publishing houses are passionate and driven about the work they do. They care about literature, and they care about featuring bold, exceptional writers. 

These independent publishers are essential for writers; writers don’t have to compete against every other wanna-be author and rely on big publishing houses anymore. Indie presses provide so many more avenues to get your book published. Plus, small presses can take risks with what they publish, trying new things and letting creativity shape their decisions. 

How was Small Press Month started?

Small Press Month was invented by two companies in 1996: New York City-based Small Press Center and California-based Publishers Marketing Association. Their intention in creating this celebratory event was to highlight small presses around the world and advocate for their work in the face of the traditional big publishing houses. They wanted to encourage small publishers to keep doing what they’re doing, fighting for their unique work to be read. According to daysoftheyear.com, “It takes courage and strength of spirit to stand up and publish in the face of the large publishers.”

How can you celebrate Small Press Month?

Local libraries and bookstores often create displays of small press books during Small Press Month. Check out or buy these books to support indie presses and their authors. You can also visit bookstores of small presses, like the Milkweed Editions bookstore located in Minneapolis, MN. You could attend this event at Dream Haven Books and Comics (Minneapolis) on March 19 to learn about how a small press runs. 

Or, right from the comfort of your home or favorite coffee shop, you can check out websites of small presses and order their books online to support them. I would suggest Graywolf Press, Coffee House Press, New Rivers Press, or Grove Atlantic, just to name a few.

Small Press Distribution, New Rivers Press’s very own book distributor, is also a great way to find and acquire small press books.

Additionally, you should follow New Rivers Press on social media (@newriverspress) to see our interns’ favorite small presses and small press books, which will be featured throughout March.

Some of my favorite small press books

  • Into the Sun by Deni Ellis Béchard, published by Milkweed Editions
  • Deep Calls to Deep by Jane Medved, published by New Rivers Press
  • The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan, published by Tyrant Books
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund, published by Grove Atlantic
  • Nighttime on the Other Side of Everything by Sarah Kobrinsky, published by New Rivers Press

*references used to write this blog post: https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/small-press-month/, https://www.tckpublishing.com/complete-guide-to-small-press-publishing-for-writers/, other links included in body text