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If you’re interested in novelizations of the early days of COVID, you’re in luck. If reading a novelization of the early days of COVID is your idea of literal hell, you’re also in luck. While there are two books coming out this month about the beginnings of quarantine, there are plenty of other titles with wildly different themes (Small-town police transcribers! Cults! Guy Fieri!) to provide a much-needed escape from reality

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1. Win Me Something: A Novel by Kyle Lucia Wu

Growing up in New Jersey as a biracial Chinese American girl, Willa Chen felt hyper-visible and unseen at the same time. Now, making her way through high school and college, Willa feels lonely and adrift. But then, she starts working as a nanny for a wealthy white family in Tribeca and becomes confronted with all of the things she never had. As she grows closer to the family, Willa is forced to confront questions of who she is, and a childhood where she never felt fully at home. This poignant debut is about identity, acceptance and complicated family dynamics.

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2. Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones

Faith Jones is the granddaughter of the founder of the Children of God, a cult that’s been around since 1968 and is known for its alarming sex practices and allegations of abuse and exploitation. Growing up on an isolated farm in Macau, Jones prayed for hours every day and read letters of prophecy written by her grandfather. When she was 23, Jones broke away, leaving behind everything she knew to forge her own path in America. In this coming-of-age memoir, she uses her own complicated story to mirror our societal norms of oppression and abuse while providing a unique lens to explore spiritual manipulation, bodily rights and the veiled world of growing up just outside of mainstream society.

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3. Carry the Dog: A Novel by Stephanie Gangi

When Bea Seger was a child in the 1960s, she and her brothers were the subjects of an explosive series of provocative photos shot by their photographer father. The photographs left a family legacy of grief felt long past the public outcry and media attention, and Bea spent the subsequent decades trying to forget her past. But suddenly the Museum of Modern Art and Hollywood have come calling, eager to cash in on these infamous photos, and Bea is forced to choose between letting the world in or leaving it all locked away in a storage unit forever.

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4. Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer by Rax King

This debut essay collection by journalist and podcaster King is all about pop culture—the high-brow, the low-brow and everything in between. Each of the book’s 14 essays revolves around a different maligned yet important cultural artifact, providing thoughtful meditations on desire, love and the power of nostalgia. Think: An essay about the gym-tan-laundry experience of Jersey Shore and how it relates the death of King’s father; or a story about how Guy Fieri helped the author heal from an abusive relationship.

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5. Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk about Racism—And How to Do It by Celeste Headlee

PBS host Headlee is a self-described "light-skinned Black Jew," meaning she’s been forced to speak about race and identity for her entire life. In Speaking of Race, she draws from her experiences as a journalist, as well as research on bias, communication and neuroscience, to provide practical advice and insight for talking about race in a way that can actually bring us closer together.

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6. Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart

Be warned: This is a COVID novel. In March 2020, a group of eight friends and friends-of-friends gathers in a country house to wait out the pandemic. Over the next six months, new relationships will take hold and old betrayals will emerge, forcing each character to reevaluate what matters most. There’s a Russian-born novelist, a struggling Indian American writer, a wildly successful Korean American app developer, a movie star and more, all interacting via Shteyngart’s signature style of humor-meets-tragedy.

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7. Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Yes, this is another novel born of the pandemic. (We suppose we should prepare for a lot more of these…) In this one, Edith Harkness is a celebrated sculptor in an unnamed English village who, as the virus spreads, isolates herself in her immense studio, Burntcoat, with Halit, the lover she barely knows. As life changes on the outside, Edith, Halit and even Burntcoat change as well, in an intimate examination of how and why make art, form relationships and build our lives. Burntcoat is about how we survive the impossible—and what’s left after we do.

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8. Hello, Transcriber by Hannah Morrissey

In Wisconsin's most crime-ridden city, Hazel Greenlee is a police transcriber and an aspiring novelist who believes that writing a book could be her only ticket out. When her neighbor confesses to hiding the corpse of an overdose victim, Hazel becomes spellbound by the lead detective and the chilling narrative he shares with her. She quickly gets sucked into the investigation and is forced to determine just how far she will go for her story, even if it means destroying her marriage, her career and any chance she has of getting out of town alive.

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