The Books Briefing: What to Read If You’re Looking for Something to Read

An omnibus reading list, from classic novels to poems to short stories: Your weekly guide to the best in books

Piles of French Novels, by Vincent van Gogh
Piles of French Novels, by Vincent van Gogh (VCG WILSON / CORBIS / GETTY)

Editor’s note: This week’s newsletter spotlights some of our favorite Books Briefing reading lists from the past few months. We’ll be back with a fresh newsletter next week.

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What We’re Reading


Your socially distanced summer-reading list (May 15, 2020)
“Books to bring on an airplane. Books to enjoy at the beach. The classic categories of warm-weather-reading recommendations don’t seem to apply to a summer spent mostly at home under the shadow of a pandemic. And yet, as a source of distraction and solace, books are more important than ever—especially when they can serve as portals to the outdoor adventures or social gatherings you might be missing.”



If your attention span is shrinking, read poetry (April 3, 2020)
“If you feel you’re losing your ability to focus on a long book while confined indoors and surrounded by digital screens (as staying up-to-date on a global pandemic seems to command), try turning to poetry to nurse your shrinking attention span back to life.”

plaque honoring H.P. Lovecraft
Piles of French Novels, by Vincent van Gogh (VCG WILSON / CORBIS / GETTY)

Turning to fiction to cope with fear (March 13, 2020)
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, disrupting some of the most basic aspects of daily life, people around the world are facing the anxiety and uncertainty that come with an unseen and fast-moving threat. Readers and writers have often turned to literature to help make sense of such crises, whether in retrospect—as Daniel Defoe did with a novel about London’s 17th-century plague—or in a hypothetical future, as Emily St. John Mandel did in imagining how human life might go on after a disease devastates the globe.”


Processing racial trauma (June 5, 2020)
“Many remarkable narratives explore the affliction of racially oppressed people in granular detail. For instance, Saidiya Hartman’s written history of black women arriving in urban American cityscapes at the turn of the 20th century encapsulates marginalized people’s struggle to live. In her book, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, she centralizes the stories of that population of black drifters, marking all of the obstacles of their journeys, while underscoring the marvel of their existence.”


Short stories to read (and reread) (January 24, 2020)
“In recent years, The Atlantic’s publication of short stories has only been occasional. But the magazine has harbored a love of literature since its very first issue—and thanks to our fiction initiative, you’ll soon see short stories on our site on a more regular basis.”

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