We are now knee-deep in the new coronavirus pandemic, and if you find you’re starting to go a little stir-crazy logging endless hours in your house, you’re not alone.
Personally, I’ve knitted and crocheted enough yards of yarn to probably be able to circle Earth about 80 times. I’ve been burning through Netflix like it’s my job (check out “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”) and the pile of books I’ve been going through on my nightstand is getting dangerously high as I replace one story with another ... and another.
So, what to read? What to watch? For book suggestions, we checked in with Sandy Irwin, library director of Durango Public Library, and for movies and shows, Joanie Leonard, executive director of Durango Independent Film Festival. They offered these picks.
BooksReading offers a great way to escape the daily weirdness, Irwin said.
“(It’s) something that I see as ‘bibliotherapy’ – finding comfort in the experiences of others and helping you get your way through that – or you just need an escape,” she said. “Give me a good book and I can sit down and just spend hours reading, just escaping my reality and going into another world. And I think we all need that kind of release.”
1. “The Dreamers,” by Karen Thompson Walker
One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster. Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams, but of what? (From Penguin Random House)
“It was an amazing book to read at this time because it was so prescient. Everything she was writing in there, like the recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), or the way the virus is going to spread is because you’re around your loved ones, and that’s how it spreads,” Irwin said. “It was totally dystopian but completely felt like she predicted the future with some kind of virus.”
2. “The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel,” by J. Ryan Stradal
Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can’t help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself. With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.” Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen’s is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home ... if it’s not too late. (From Penguin Random House)
3. “Nothing to See Here,” by Kevin Wilson.
Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: The twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth. Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other – and stay cool – while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her. (From Harper Collins Publishers)
While the library is pretty much closed until further notice, Irwin said patrons can get e-materials, check out e-books and e-audio books through the library’s website. Also, the library has extended all library cards’ expiration dates into July, so people don’t have to worry.
And don’t forget the kids when it comes to books, Irwin said.
“Just reading with your young children for 15 minutes a day makes all the difference in the world,” she said. “So if you’re struggling with what to do with your kids, just spend 15 minutes reading with your kid every day and that’s going to make a huge difference in their literacy, that’s a really big thing.”
Movies and showsLeonard suggests a variety of movies, documentaries and shows that are available online.
(Series on Netflix). “Dark” is set in a German town in present day where the disappearance of two young children exposes the double lives and fractured relationships among four families. Currently 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
(Short series on HBO). “Chernobyl” dramatizes the 1986 nuclear accident, one of the worst human-made catastrophes in history and tells the story of the brave men and women who made incredible sacrifices to save Europe from unimaginable disaster, all the while battling a culture of disinformation. Currently 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
3. “The Biggest Little Farm”
(Hulu, documentary) A testament to the immense complexity of nature, “The Biggest Little Farm” follows two dreamers and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land. Rated PG. Currently 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. “Ford v. Ferrari”
(Amazon Prime rental). Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in “Ford v. Ferrari,” based on the true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Co. and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. Rated PG-13. Currently 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
5. “Knives Out”
(Amazon Prime rental). Acclaimed writer and director Rian Johnson pays tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie in “Knives Out,” a fun, modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death. Rated PG-13. Currently 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Leonard said her list would be incomplete without a music entry.
7. “American Factory”
(Available on Netflix. Film won the Academy Award for best documentary feature) In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. Not rated. Currently 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
“I definitely need an escape from all the coronavirus emails and news,” Leonard said. “A good story on screen is definitely an escape into another world but refrain from watching a film about a pandemic.”