Book and Podcast Recommendations for a Mental Time-Out

By Stefanie Charles

Ready to take a break from the news? Faculty and staff at Rutgers University–Camden offer book and podcast suggestions to bring a little ease to these difficult times. From uplifting stories to guilty pleasures, let this collection be a reminder to practice self-care during social distancing or quarantine. The list will be updated periodically, plus you can follow Rutgers–Camden on Facebook and Twitter for new recommendations.

Andrew Abeyta, assistant professor of psychology
I’d recommend the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. In the book, Frankl details his experience surviving the Holocaust as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. Even though the book is emotionally jarring, it is a powerful illustration of how psychologically important it is to maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Moreover, Frankl’s experience is uplifting, showing how it is possible to find meaning, purpose, and hope even in the bleakest of situations.

View from a above of multiple open books laid out flatJim Brown, associate professor of English and director of the Digital Studies Center
The best thing I’ve listened to this week was the audiobook of Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time. Rovelli is a physicist who really knows how to make difficult things make sense, and he’s also a beautiful writer. As a bonus, it’s read by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is a joy to listen to.

Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science
I’d recommend the podcast “Finding Fred” because this seems like the right moment for a bit more Mr. Rogers calm and kindness in our lives. And I’d recommend the podcast “Dolly Parton’s America” because… Dolly.

Travis DuBose, director of the Writing and Design Lab
I’d recommend Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell because it’s about hope in the face of difficult circumstances. It’s also long and will burn lots of quarantine time!

Leah Falk, program coordinator at the Writers House
I recommend Karen Olsson’s The Weil Conjectures — a memoir that excavates Olsson’s own youthful attraction to the study of mathematics, alongside biographical excerpts of the intellectual lives of brother and sister Andre and Simone Weil, this book unpacks what is human and sensual about even our most abstract intellectual pursuits.

Jay Feinman, distinguished professor of law
“I’d recommend The Science of Good Cooking by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen. We’re all paying more attention to science and we’re staying at home; this book uses scientific principles and experiments to teach basic cooking concepts and produce great recipes.”

Nathan Fried, assistant professor of biology
I’d recommend “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” [podcast] because the similarities between a life in comedy and a life in academia are immense and immensely funny.

Microphone with a pair of headphonesLauren Grodstein, professor of English and director of the MFA in Creative Writing program
If you’re feeling highbrow in your isolation, I’d recommend A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, which is a deeply engrossing 800-page Japanese novel based loosely on Wuthering Heights. And if you’d rather go low, a truly guilty pleasure is the “Crime Junkie” podcast, which dives deep into the most sordid murder cases of the past hundred years.

Stacy Hawkins, professor of law
I would recommend the “More Perfect” podcast from NPR. As a constitutional law professor, I think most Americans don’t know nearly enough about our nation’s founding document, and this podcast brings some of the most important and controversial dimensions of the Constitution to life for everyday listeners. But it also provides lots of interesting background information about some of the Supreme Court’s most significant cases for even the most well-informed listeners. And the hosts are really funny and engaging!

Roxanne Huertas, human resources manager
I’d recommend the novel Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It is a poignant commentary on motherhood, class, and race. A miniseries by the same name, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, is currently streaming on Hulu, making for great fodder for conversations to compare the book and the show.

Colored pencils drawing a rainbow on a white backgroundCarol Kaufman-Scarborough, professor of marketing
The 365 Days activity books [365 Days of Creative Play by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray] can be great for all ages. My son uses these while homeschooling his children. There are similar books for people of all ages. I’m also big on mindfulness and calming activities. Pleasant adult coloring books are ideal. The Color Me Calm series is quite nice.

Charlotte Markey, professor of psychology
I’d recommend The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, which is a lovely sibling story about devotion and resilience.

Scott Owens, director of alumni relations and annual giving
The Alumni Virtual Book Club: While it’s named an alumni book club, it is not just limited to alumni; anyone can join if they have the link. The current book being read is A Woman of No Importance, authored by Sonia Purnell.

Jason Rivera, vice chancellor for student academic success
I’d recommend Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford because it provides timely reminders to breathe more, stress less, and choose love—and in this rapidly changing environment, we can all use those helpful reminders.

I’d also recommend the guided meditation “LET GO of Anxiety, Fear, & Worries.” The guided meditation has been a welcome resource and has helped me to find a little peace in these troubling times.

Shauna Shames, assistant professor of political science
May I just say, I think now is a perfect time for everyone to read my latest book on what dystopian fiction can teach us about real-world government [Survive and Resist: The Definitive Guide to Dystopian Fiction, co-authored by Amy L. Atchison]. It’s a light and humorous take on the end of the world, I swear. It uses dystopian fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 as a lens for teaching key and important political-science concepts and useful lessons — like why we have government and what it can and should do to protect us from, say, pandemics!



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