Reading in the age of a coronavirus pandemic has been rich with diversity and surprises. The journey has lead me to a variety of books that were comforting or captivating, insightful or suspenseful, eye-opening and heart-stirring. I have found so many books that I might not have discovered before the world was told to shelter in place. And I want to share some of my reading experiences with you.



At the onset of our confusing, unsettling, forced isolation, I sought out books that were calming, even inspiring. First among those were poetry. I’ve always loved poetry and read it often. I try to write poetry, humbly, and with trepidation. Yet reading it sets my mind free. My sisters and I (we spent the summer isolating together at my mountain house) read a poem aloud each morning outdoor among the trees to set the tone for our day. And it did. My favorites during those mornings of five dogs sitting on our laps and chasing each other, were Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs.

I always love to read the poetry of my dear friends and the poet laureate of South Carolina, Marjory Wentworth. She is brilliant.



I also became a devoted fan of audiobooks, something I’ve mentioned on Friends and Fiction, the weekly web show and podcast I co-host with my friends and bestselling authors Patti Callahan Henry, Mary Kay Andrews, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Kristin Harmel.

During those early days of COVID-19, my mind was easily distracted. I found reading novels oddly difficult. But listening… It was a surprise to me how enchanted I was with this medium. I knew it well. After all, I’ve read my own audiobooks for over a decade. Yet I relegated audiobooks to car trips. Not anymore.



Once again, my sisters and I sat together at night, in front of a fire when chilly, and listened, each lost in our separate visualizations of the unfolding story. My recommendations are Maeve Binchy’s A Week in Winter, Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls, and my favorite, William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land.

Caught up in a story, I listened while I hiked the mountains, did laundry or the dishes, and sometimes, lying in bed before sleep.



Summer is over now and as we move into fall, I’ve fallen in love again with the printed page. My second surprise came from reading the widely varying and stimulating books of the authors we’ve enjoyed on Friends and Fiction.

Like the best of book clubs, we select authors and books that cover a wide range of interests and a diversity of subjects and genres. Reading afield from my usual repertoire, I’ve delighted in the power of books I might not have picked up on my own.

I was stunned by the power of Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man, got lost in the history of Fiona Davis’s The Lions of Fifth Avenue, and thrilled to the nail-biting mysteries of Karin Slaughter and Kathy Reichs. And I can’t wait to read the latest holiday books by Christina Lauren and Susan Mallery.

I’ve truly enjoyed every one of the books we’ve shared each week. And more, I am grateful to be a part of the Friends and Fiction group that allow us to meet and chat with the authors of these wonderful books. To hear them share their ideas, their writing processes and writing tips (thank you), and graciously answer all of our questions. Wednesday nights are my favorite night of the week!

Side Note: You can watch all of our previous episodes on our website here. If you don’t have time, no problem! Simply pop in some earbuds and listen to our podcast here while you’re on the go!

And mark your calendar to join us on Wednesdays at 7PM ET on Facebook Live for our happy hour chats. Simply join our group page here to connect with us and nearly 20,000 other booklovers!



Reading in the age of coronavirus continues months later, and we have entered a “new normal” of determination, perseverance, and calm. Throughout it all, books have been there for me. As have the booksellers who have weathered this storm with us. As have my fabulous friends of Friends and Fiction. As have you, dear readers. Read on!




  1. Carla Brumby on October 6, 2020 at 8:06 am

    I alwYs have a book to read but during this new normal, I’m reading more and more. I like reading an actual book and sometimes, I’ll put a book on my Kindle.
    I love reading your books, Mary Alice, Patti Callahan, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Fiaona Davis and Karin Slaughter. These are just a few authors, so many more.

  2. Vicki Vannest on October 6, 2020 at 8:13 am

    I am sure by now you know the powerful effect you have had on all of us remaining at home for the pandemic! We may venture out occasionally with utmost caution but our time spent with you at Friends & Fiction, your books and books you recommend have made the tough stay-at-home times much easier. I do wonder if you know just how many people you have touched and In doing so reawakened the love for reading.
    Thank you Mary Alice and friends and Fiction crew. You have truly been a blessing!

    • Mary Alice Monroe on October 6, 2020 at 8:39 am

      Your comment has just made my entire month! Thank you, Vicki. It feels so good to know that Friends & Fiction is bringing readers and writers together in candid, fun, and safe ways during this time. I’ll be sure to share your comment with the entire F&F crew. And, we’ll “see” you Wednesday night.

  3. Tammy Clower on October 6, 2020 at 8:53 am

    I’ve always been an avid reader but during the pandemic I have read more than ever. With no sports to watch for so long and having surgery in May, I was plowing through books at rapid pace. I don’t do well with audiobooks…my mind wanders. I’m not interested in ebooks. I absolutely love holding a book, hardback or paperback. I was on Friends and Fiction the very first Wednesday and was very consistent with watching until my Atlanta Braves began playing again. I still love the Fab 5 and all that y’all have done for me and all of your viewers. I have learned so much! Thank you!

    • Mary Alice Monroe on October 7, 2020 at 10:56 am

      Tammy, thank you for your comments. I hope your surgery went well, and I’m so glad you filled your healing time with books! It’s great to know that you’ve been enjoying being a part of Friends & Fiction on Wednesday nights with us. It has added routine and rhythm to my weekly schedule, and I think the expectation of having something to look forward to and learn from is uplifting too.

  4. Dee Clark on October 6, 2020 at 10:54 am

    I’ll say it again Mary Alice, thank you for instilling the love of reading in me through your books!!!! I would be so bored during this pandemic if I didn’t have all the recommendations from you and your F&F authors and guest authors on book suggestions to read!!!
    I’m not bored because through these books I have been to many places multiple times etc., IOP, NC, FL, MA, and now I’m on a trip to St. John’s,VI before I embarking on a trip to Ireland!!!
    My friends/daughter/sister will call or text and ask what are you doing, quite often I’ll continuously respond READING!!!!
    So as you say READ ON!!!!!

  5. Christy on October 6, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    I’ve always been an avid reader. Two of my favorite personal quotes are:
    ”I would rather read than breathe.”

    “I’ll read anything that won’t walk away from me.”

    I love real books. I love reading on my iPad. I’ve never loved audiobooks, but I decided to give them yet another chance. I love them! My ride to and from work is so much better. My boys play baseball two hours from home. Audiobooks makes travel and practice much more bearable.

    No matter how busy my life has become…wife…mom of two teenage boys…elementary principal… I read every single day. You can often find me with one of your books. Right now, I’m all caught up. Waiting for your next book…

    • Mary Alice Monroe on October 7, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Christy, Great quotes!
      How wonderful it is to know you’re able to enjoy good books no matter what you’re doing or where you’re going. Do your boys also read or listen to audiobooks while traveling to games? Thank you for your comments.

  6. Sue Johnson Bishopp on October 6, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    Mary Alice,

    I have been reading or listening to so many wonderful books since March.
    It has been a nice escape and wonderful entertainment.
    I have mostly read women’s fiction books that are light and funny.
    I have been reading mostly on my IPad, getting books from Hoopla or Libby library apps.
    I love your books and love that you narrate them yourself.
    I have read and listened to a lot of books from the other authors in Friends and fiction and your guest authors. It has been so great watching Friends and Fiction on Wednesday’s, it is always so interesting and funny. It has been something to look forward to at a time while sheltering at home and not able to get out and be with friends and family. You all make everyone feel welcome.
    I love listening to all your stories and I enjoy seeing how everyone decorates, while I listen.
    I love how you painted your wall and added the shelves. I also love the black and white wallpaper you have. I am normally not a wallpaper fan but I love black and white and I love that print.
    Have you all sold more or less books during this time? New ones and older ones.
    I know you all had to cancel your tours, but with Friends and fiction and other interviews etc. I have to think you all reached more readers and new readers on line this year.
    It’s great that you all support independent bookstores on the show too.
    Sadly in Southern California with such high rent, I think Barnes and Noble is the only book store left. I can’t think of any Independent bookstores in this area, which is sad.
    Thanks so much for making this crazy year a little easier and much more entertaining.
    I learned in March, to stay away from the news as much as possible. My husband watches to much of it and it’s not healthy! 🙋💞📚

    • Mary Alice Monroe on October 7, 2020 at 10:49 am

      I’m so glad to hear that you’re diving into stories this season. What a joy it is to read about your reading experience during the age of coronavirus. And what a good question you posed about book sales. I don’t know the answer to that but, no matter…the gift of this year of being sheltered in place with no book tours is discovering new–yet still personal–ways of connecting readers and writers. It’s been such a positive, happy experience. We can all use more of that right now.

  7. Nancy Britt on October 7, 2020 at 8:14 am

    Reading has always been a love for me however I haven’t always made the time for it, for me! During the last months I have made that time and have lost myself in the many books you guys have recommended and have read quite a few new authors to me. This group has helped me expand the type of books I read and I am just loving it! Me reading a historical book was unheard of but The Winemakers Wife has changed all that as well as other genres of reading. Reading to me is a place not a thing, it takes me to another level of calm and serene. Thanks so much to the F&F group for this. Sorry but you always are my very favorite but through you I have expanded. Btw. What a great summer to have quarantined with your sisters. That would be a girls dream come true.

    • Mary Alice Monroe on October 7, 2020 at 10:45 am

      Nancy, your letter to me means so much. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. What a beautiful and poignant statement: “Reading to me is a place not a thing, it takes me to another level of calm and serene”. I am so glad our weekly Friends & Fiction happy hour has lead to wonderful book discoveries.

  8. Susan Baldwin on October 7, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Mary Alice-I own and love all your books! I love how you weave wonderous nature in your beautiful stories. You are inspirational! Each time I ‘attend’ one of your virtual interviews, I learn something new about you. Friends and Fiction is awesome! Thank you, and all the authors, for this wonderful program, which I look forward to each and every week. Through this, I have discovered and come to enjoy many new authors that I had not read before. I am delighted to say that my ‘books to read’ list has quadrupled! I have always been a voracious reader, (since I was a child), but during the Pandemic I have read even more exponentially. As a long time environmentalist/conservationist, (as is my whole family), I have also enjoyed your Light 1 Candle group. Thank you for your wonderful stories!

    • Mary Alice Monroe on October 12, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Susan, thank you for being such a supportive reader of my books. And, how wonderful it is to have you join us on Friends & Fiction each Wednesday. I must admit, I have the same problem too with a rapidly growing Reading List because of all the great recommendations from the authors on the live chat.

  9. Susie Baldwin on October 8, 2020 at 1:50 am

    Mary Alice-I own and love all your books! I love the way you weave nature in your beautiful stories. You
    are an inspiration! Every interview of yours that I ‘attend’, I learn something new from you. Friends and Fiction is awesome! I never miss a show. Through this, I have discovered and come to enjoy so many new authors and their work. I am delighted that my ‘books to read’ list has quadrupled.
    Thank you, and to all the ladies, for this wonderful show!
    I have always been a voracious reader but with the pandemic, my reading has grown exponentially.

    I also enjoy Light 1 Candle, as a long time conservationist/environmentalist.
    Thank you, Mary Alice.

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