37 Books That Got Me Through Quarantine

zibby owens

Zibby Owens, host of the podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, shares her quarantine reading list

In the past year, I’ve quarantined with my four kids ages six to thirteen doing remote school, built a business, dealt with the illness and subsequent loss of my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law, lost my own beloved grandmother, had Covid myself during which time I was in bed for nine days, started a non-profit for Covid research, released a book, and, actually, more. Here are the 37 books that have allowed me to regroup, escape, cope, and learn as I’ve gone through it all. I couldn’t have done it without them. 

Zibby Owens is the creator and host of the award-winning podcast ‘Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.’ Her new book ‘Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology‘ is out now.



Wow, No Thank You, by Samantha Irby
These super intimate, hilarious reflections about life, work, family, and race from a black lesbian made this book an instant bestseller. The fabulous Samantha Irby is now co-writing the new “Sex and the City” revival for HBO Max.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, by Bess Kalb
Told in her recently deceased, hilarious grandmother, Bobby’s voice, Bess’s memoir is a love story between a grandmother and her granddaughter that will make anyone who has loved a grandparent laugh and cry.

Writers and Lovers, by Lily King
One of the best books of the year, this novel follows an aspiring author working as a waitress on the heels of freshly losing her mother, the relationship she gets into with a man — and his kids — and her determination to pursue her love of the writing craft. 

Valentine, by Elizabeth Wetmore
This evocative, sensational novel set in the barren landscape of Texas oil fields is an ode to time and place as one girl survives a crime, and another woman must deal with how to handle it. 

Separation Anxiety, by Laura Zigman
A dog-loving mother deals with the craziness at her son’s school, the crazy cast of characters who stay with her, her pot-loving husband, and what it means to grow older in this memorable novel. 


Everything in Under Control: A Memoir with Recipes, by Phyllis Grant
Told in sparse, poetic prose, these scenes of a marriage, of motherhood, and meals by notable food blogger and restaurant warrior Phyllis Grant comprise an elegant collection of stories and recipes. 


Stray: A Memoir, by Stephanie Danler
The author of bestselling novel Sweetbitter writes a soulful, poetic memoir about Los Angeles, caring for her mother, and finding the right love for her, set in Laurel Canyon.

What We Carry: A Memoir, by Maya Shanbhag Lang
Maya is a soulful, reflective, literary author. Her story mixes overcoming her own abuse from her father, perhaps caused by the displacement of their patriarchal South Asian family when uprooted into a different status-phere as U.S. immigrants, caring for her again mother with Alzheimer’s, and raising her own daughter. 

There I Am: The Journey from Hopelessness to Healing, by Ruthie Lindsey
This truly inspirational tale of perseverance through pain tracks the spiritually-inclined Ruthie Lindsey through years of chronic pain after a car accident in her teenage years, and ends with her having Taylor Swift in her home. 


The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
A story of two sisters, one who passes for white and one who maintains her black identity, is a page-turning narrative about the directions two lives take and the ripple effects of one decision on generations to come.

Searching for Sylvie Lee, by Jean Kwok
One sister searches for her missing older sister in this bestselling, coming-of-age immigrant family story set in Queens and Holland that portrays poverty and striving told from by a Chinese immigrant who worked in clothing factories every night and who ended up at Harvard.

Eliza Starts a Rumor, by Jane Rosen
This story of an agoraphobic suburban mom who starts a rumor on a community message board — and her neighbors — was actually banned by an Upper East Side moms group. Told with wit and humor, this story is a true reflection on what it means to be a part of a community and who runs the show.

Exile Music, by Jennifer Steil
This lyrically-written novel reads like a memoir. Told from the point-of-view of a Viennese daughter, this story of a well-to-do Austrian family who flees to Bolivia when the Nazis invade, is about family, homeland, growing up, and identity. 


The Beauty in Breaking, by Michele Harper, M.D.
An emergency room physician chronicles her career in hospitals, her path through heartbreak, her thoughts on race, and how to combat the brokeness within all of us.

Sex and Vanity, by Kevin Kwan
A delicious romp of a book, the latest book by Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan takes us to Capri in this escapist, light, entertaining read. 


My Life as a Villainess: Essays, by Laura Lippman
These essays by crime novelist Laura Lippman track her career in newspapers, her journey into (older) motherhood, her relationship with her father, and other reflections from a wise, charismatic, and voice-driven female novelist.

The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir, by Sara Seager
A beautiful memoir by an astrophysicist who chronicles the long illness and loss of her husband, mixed with her ground-breaking scientific research, in this career and love story that will make you rethink the entire universe.


A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom, by Brittany K. Barnett
Brittany’s mother was imprisoned for a minor infraction, leading Brittany to pursue life as a lawyer fighting for the rights of inmates with unfair sentences. She is now a true warrior for the right to freedom. 

Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual, by Terri Cheney
Bipolar lawyer Terri Cheney writes from the inside of mental illness, tracking what it really feels like to wrestle with your mind in this truly beautiful memoir by a “Modern Love” essayist. 

Born to Fly, by Sara Evans
Country music star Sara Evans writes about her weight issues, her marriage, the accident that changed her life, and all the obstacles she overcame to become a successful performer and star — and what it really means to succeed.

Monogamy, by Sue Miller
This novel, told from the point-of-a-view of a midlife photographer in Boston who loses her bookstore-owning husband as he sleeps beside her, details what immediate grief looks like, even when secrets emerge about the newly departed. A story of marriage, partnership, and loyalty, this book is a vivid example of how a masterful author can create truly lifelike characters and relationships. 

More Than a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
A memoir about the patriarchy, parenting a child with an eating disorder, middle-age conundrums and more, this second book from the internationally bestselling author Caitlin Moran is at times hilarious, often sad, and always thought-provoking.


Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life, by Christie O. Tate
An over-achieving former lawyer reluctantly turns to group therapy to counter her relationship issues, former eating disorder, and depression, in this witty, relatable account of how the power of strangers can be healing. 

I’ll Be Seeing You, by Elizabeth Berg
Bestselling novelist turns to her own aging parents as she tracks her own emotions at their demise and how the power of a lifelong love can trump the deepest flaws in this poignant tale of being a daughter in mid-life.


Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, by Emmanuel Acho
Emmanuel talks to white readers about what it means to be black in this super intellectual, well-written, timely book that addresses many unanswered questions. And now this sports analyst has been tapped to be the host of “The Bachelor” franchise on TV!


Love Poems for the Office (or Wherever), by John Kenney
The third installment in John Kenney’s hilarious trifecta of tounge-in-cheek, laugh-out-loud poems, this New Yorker contributor’s slim book pokes fun at everything we take for granted about #worklife.

The Book of Moods: How I Turned My Worst Emotions into My Best Life, by Lauren Martin
This introspective, empowering peek inside her own mind makes Lauren Martin’s memoir truly inspiring. She doesn’t accept her moodiness and resolves to tackle it intellectually and behaviorally and, along the way, exhibits the finest level of storytelling.



The Beauty of What Remains, by Rabbi Steve Leder
Rabbi Steve Leder, leader of one of the largest congregations in L.A., reflects on his father’s descent into dementia as a way of telling a larger story about death, loss, grief, dying, and how to make sense of the time we have.

American Daughter, by Stephanie Thornton Plymale
Stephanie grew up homeless, in foster care, separated from her siblings, estranged from her mentally ill mother, and ended up becoming a successful head of an interior design school, which she credits to the love from her husband — which she almost throws away. Stephanie discovers she’s actually a direct descendant from one of the most revered families in American history — and the crime that changed everything.


Your Fully-Charged Life: A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with Yay, by Meaghan B. Murphy
For anyone who has ever been tired, this book, a mix of memoir and advice, will propel you with an assortment of small changes you can make to live you best life.

Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology, edited by Zibby Owens
How could I not include my own book?! This collection of 60+ essays by notable authors who have been on my podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, addresses five things moms don’t have time to do: read, eat, work out, breathe, and have sex. All proceeds go to the Susan Felice Owens Program for Covid-19 Vaccine Research.

Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level, by Laura Tremaine
Podcast host and blogger Laura Tremaine writes in her intimate style about being an Oklahoma transplant in L.A. who finally finds her people as a mom. She ends each chapter with suggested questions for how to make real connections.

Speak, Okinawa, by Elizabeth Miki Brina
This gorgeous literary memoir tracks Elizabeth’s search for identity as the daughter of a Vietnam vet and his war-bride. 


You’re Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility, by Annabelle Gurwitch
These essays from Thurber Humor Prize finalist and bestselling author Annabelle Gurwitch use her characteristic wit to reflect on her transgender child, taking in boarders to augment her income, how it feels to combat financial insecurity and aging in this delightful and meaningful collection.

A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me…and You, by Leslie Lehr
A breast cancer survivor uses America’s relationship with breasts to explore what it means to live in a woman’s body. Recently optioned by Salma Hayek for a TV show with HBO Max, this book is a memoir of resurrection, reconstruction, and revival.

Apology to the Young Addict, by James Brown
A recovered opioid addict and alcoholic shares mid-life reflections on overcoming his demons, raising his boys, and how to live life purposefully in this searing memoir.

Coming Up: April

Did I Say That Out Loud? Lessons in Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them, by Kristin van Ogtrop
This truly laugh-out-loud collection of essays from the former editor-in-chief of Real Simple tackles aging, motherhood, her love of dogs, a medical odyssey, the demise of the magazine industry, and more. 

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