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All the books, movies, TV and music our authors consumed in quarantine

Authors Tayari Jones, Jervey Tervalon, Ivy Pochoda, Rick Bragg, Steph Cha, and Stephanie Danler
Clockwise from top left, authors Tayari Jones, Jervey Tervalon, Ivy Pochoda, Rick Bragg, Steph Cha and Stephanie Danler
(Photos courtesy of the authors)

During three months of widespread lockdown, we asked 17 writers to offer diaries of their time in isolation. As stay-at-home measures eased and protests proliferated, The Times compiled their experienced into a meta-narrative of this unprecedented period in their lives and ours. For writers (or artists of any kind), it was a time of not just creativity and contemplation but also consumption and absorption (and sometimes procrastination). In the short windows of time they shared with us, these authors collectively read 55 books, listened to 20 musical artists, watched 25 shows and saw 18 movies. We’ve gathered them together as a document of escapism, consolation, mourning and creative ferment — and not necessarily a list of recommendations. Many of these are widely acclaimed works of genius; others are not. Proceed at your own risk.

Over the last three months, 17 writers provided diaries to the Times of their days in isolation, followed by weeks of protest. This is their story.

The Times may earn a commission from Bookshop.org if you buy these books through links on our site. They were independently selected.

Books

Laila Lalami fell asleep with Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar."
(Laila Lalami)
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American Salvage,” Bonnie Jo Campbell

The Babysitters Club,” Ann M. Martin

Baja Oklahoma,” Dan Jenkins

“Beany Malone,” Lenora Mattingly Weber

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Because of Mr. Terupt,” Rob Buyea

Behold the Dreamers,” Imbolo Mbue

The Bell Jar,” Sylvia Plath

Betsy-Tacy” books, Maud Hart Lovelace

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Blessing the Boats,” Lucille Clifton

The Blinds,” Adam Sternbergh

Novels of Edgar Box (Gore Vidal)

Burning Province,” Michael Prior

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The City in the Middle of the Night,” Charlie Jane Anders

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths,” Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

Dead Astronauts,” Jeff VanderMeer

Dragon Hoops,” Gene Luen Yang

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Ivy Pochoda and her daughter, Loretta, with their favorite books.
(Courtesy of Ivy Pochoda)

Either/Or,” Soren Kierkegaard

Finding Sanctuary,” Abbot Christopher Jamison

The Furies,” Janet Hobhouse

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” E.L. Konigsburg

The Galleons,” Rick Barot

Girlhood,” Melissa Febos

The Glass Hotel,” Emily St. John Mandel

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Godshot,” Chelsea Bieker

Golden Gates,” Conor Dougherty

The Good Thief,” Hanna Tinti

Heaven, My Home,” Attica Locke

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Heavy,” Kiese Laymon

Interior Chinatown,” Charles Yu

The Last Picture Show,” Larry McMurtry

Madame Bovary,” Gustav Flaubert

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Anna Solomon read Helen Phillips' novel "The Need" in quarantine.
(Mike Burger)

Middlemarch,” George Eliot

Minor Feelings,” Cathy Park Hong

The Need,” Helen Phillips

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The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” Deborah Madison

The Night Fire,” Michael Connelly

Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes,” Rick Riordan

“The Poisoned Chocolates Case,” Anthony Berkeley

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Postcolonial Love Poem,” Natalie Diaz

The Power Broker,” Robert Caro

The Power,” Naomi Alderman

Rift Zone,” Tess Taylor

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“September 1, 1939,” W.H. Auden

Slouching Towards Los Angeles,” ed. Steffie Nelson

The Song of Achilles,” Madeline Miller

Spirit Run,” Noé Alvárez

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Susan Straight organized a "Fence Library" in front of her house in Riverside.
(Susan Straight)

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” Mike Isaac

There Will Never Be Another You,” Carolyn See

These Women,” by Ivy Pochoda

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To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee

Toothless Wonder,” Barbara Park

Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson

“We Lived Happily During the War,” Ilya Kaminsky

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Weather,” Jenny Offill

White Fang”; “The Call of the Wild,” Jack London

Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older,” Douwe Draaisma

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Movies

Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later."
“I’m pretty sure Danny Boyle was trying to warn us in ’28 Days Later’ that the virus that turns people into zombies isn’t nearly as dangerous as greedy, immoral humans.” — Laila Lalami
(Peter Mountain / Fox Searchlight Pictures)

“28 Days Later”

“Bringing Up Baby”

“Chungking Express”

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“Crocodile Dundee”

“Desperately Seeking Susan”

“Edge of Tomorrow”

The movies of Jacques Demy

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“Independence Day”

“Key Largo”

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard's "Pierrot le Fou."
Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou.”
(Canal Plus)

“Lawrence of Arabia”

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“Paris, Texas”

“Pierrot le Fou”

“Quiz Show”

“Red River”

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“Shattered Glass”

“The Shop Around the Corner”

“Thor: Ragnarok”

“Walk the Line”

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From apocalyptic despair to restorative joy, here are just a few titles for your at-home viewing marathon chosen by film critic Justin Chang.

TV

Joseph Julian Soria, left, Joaquin Cosio and Carlos Santos in a scene from "Gentefied."
(Kevin Estrada/NETFLIX/Kevin Estrada/NETFLIX)

“The Barchester Chronicles”

“Brideshead Revisited” (1981)

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“Come Dine With Me”

“Country Music”

“Curb Your Enthusiasm”

“Devs”

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“Fleabag”

“Gentefied”

“Gunsmoke”

“Hillary”

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“Little Fires Everywhere”

“Love Is Blind”

Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation”

Julia Garner in "Ozark" — a big hit with a few quarantined authors, including film critic David Thomson.
(Jessica Miglio / Netflix)
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“Kitchen Nightmares”

“Naked and Afraid”

“The Office”

“Ozark”

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“The Plot Against America”

“Quiz”

“Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America!”

“Seinfeld”

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“Six Feet Under”

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”

“Wild North”

WrestleMania

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Music

Singer-songwriter Norah Jones, whom Charles Finch found himself listening to in spite of himself.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Alabama Shakes

Allman Brothers

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The Beatles

Beethoven (performed)

BennY Revival

Patsy Cline

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Sam Cooke

Steely Dan (performed)

Bill Evans

Gregorian chants

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Singer-songwriter John Prine
John Prine, a touchstone for several authors even before his death from COVID-19.
(John Chiasson)

Jimi Hendrix

Alicia Keys (to Stephen Colbert)

Knower

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Led Zeppelin

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Norah Jones

John Prine

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Puff the Magic Dragon

Bill Withers

Yo-Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers

We polled more than 30 music critics, inside and outside The Times, on the best albums to listen to while you’re stuck at home (and kind of freaking out).

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