Laura's Top 10 Books About Isolation (and Connection)

Isolation is such an interesting experience. At certain points in my life (admittedly more often than not) I crave solitude. I'm an introvert by nature and while I can "turn it on" to be outgoing and boisterous, I'm most at peace when I'm by myself in a quiet place. However, that's not to say that isolation can't be a curse. Human connection is important. It's part of what makes us, well, human.

I had so many favorite books this year, but when looking at them together I noticed a theme appear. So many of them dealt, either directly or indirectly, with isolation and loneliness. 

How We Are Translated By Jessica Gaitán Johannesson Cover Image
ISBN: 9781950354825
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Scribe Us - February 1st, 2022

This is such a fascinating tale of language, particularly the ways in which language can connect or isolate us. A young, Swedish immigrant's boyfriend decides he will only speak in Swedish in the hopes of learning her language. What should have been a kind gesture that brings them together actually turns into a strain on their relationship. How We Are Translated is such a tender story handled with soft, deft hands.

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The Bear Woman By Karolina Ramqvist, Saskia Vogel (Translator) Cover Image
By Karolina Ramqvist, Saskia Vogel (Translator)
ISBN: 9781552454312
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Coach House Books - February 8th, 2022

The Bear Woman is a chimera: part exploration of modernity, part historical research and retelling, and always written through a feminist lens. We follow the narrator as she hunts down the story of Marguerite de la Rocque, a young, French noblewoman who was abandoned on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence during an Atlantic crossing. Both Marguerite and the narrator must navigate isolation from their families and the world.

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A Far Wilder Magic By Allison Saft Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250623652
Availability: UNAVAILABLE
Published: Wednesday Books - March 8th, 2022

Hauntingly atmospheric, Maggie and Wes' story is a nuanced parable of loss and connection, exclusion and community, and the aching hope--and fear--that someone will see us exactly as we are. This romance is set in a magical, fictional world with painful similarities to our own. A Far Wilder Magic will consume you.

In a Garden Burning Gold: Book One of the Wind-up Garden series By Rory Power Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593354971
Availability: UNAVAILABLE
Published: Del Rey - April 5th, 2022

Set in a gloriously atmospheric Greek-inspired fantasy world, In a Garden Burning Gold follows two siblings as they fight to keep their family safe, even from each other. There is a particular pain as we watch Rhea and Lexos become more and more diametrically opposed, isolating themselves from their family while trying desperately to gain allies. In this world there is no love without loss, no trust without betrayal, and no magic without pain.

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If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English: A Novel By Noor Naga Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450819
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - April 12th, 2022

Naga's experimental sophomore novel is filled with pithy yet sensual prose. This is an exploration of power, abuse, and the eternal question: who deserves to own the narrative? It's fascinating to watch the two protagonists lose trust in each other until they are completely cut off from one another. If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is set on a knife's edge. It's a horrific kind of pleasure to watch the scales tip.

I Who Have Never Known Men By Jacqueline Harpman, Ros Schwartz (Translator), Sophie Mackintosh (Afterword by) Cover Image
By Jacqueline Harpman, Ros Schwartz (Translator), Sophie Mackintosh (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9781945492600
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: Transit Books - May 10th, 2022

This is perhaps the most straightforward book for this list's theme. Jacqueline Harpman's novel is strange, tragic, and will leave you with more questions than answers. Forty women must battle for survival when they may, in fact, be the last humans on earth. Our narrator shows us the ultimate reality of true isolation.

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Hell Followed with Us By Andrew Joseph White Cover Image
ISBN: 9781682633243
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Peachtree Teen - June 7th, 2022

There's a certain joy in watching a lonely, abandoned person discover a community for himself. White's speculative horror takes us to a world filled with grotesque monsters--both human and not--and furious teens fighting for their right to live. Just as Benji sheds his skin to become a dark creature of wrath, Hell Followed With Us warps our own world inside out, showing the ugliest and brightest parts that humanity has to offer.

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The Emperors of Byzantium By Kevin Lygo, Robert Peston (Foreword by), Bettany Hughes (Introduction and notes by) Cover Image
By Kevin Lygo, Robert Peston (Foreword by), Bettany Hughes (Introduction and notes by)
ISBN: 9780500023297
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Thames & Hudson - June 7th, 2022

This is perhaps a bit of a stretch for the list, but I found Lygo's anecdotes and knowledge of the Byzantine emperors fascinating. There truly is nothing so isolating as power: there is always the question of who will betray you, who is a true ally, and which enemies will return when you thought them dead (a hint: many, some with a golden nose!).

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Days Come and Go By Hemley Boum, Nchanji Njamnsi (Translator) Cover Image
By Hemley Boum, Nchanji Njamnsi (Translator)
ISBN: 9781949641356
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Two Lines Press - November 1st, 2022

Days Come and Go is an aching chronicle of Cameroon, told through the eyes of three generations of women. In it, Anna and her family become almost mythic archetypes, crafting a pattern of tragedy and hope. Boum expertly maneuvers between their intimate moments of joy and losses of innocence, all handled with tender care. It's fascinating to see how one country's history ties its people together, no matter how far apart they've travelled.

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Ordinary Wonder Tales By Emily Urquhart Cover Image
ISBN: 9781771965057
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Biblioasis - November 1st, 2022

An absolutely enchanting collection of essays exploring our connection to stories and magic. Urquhart is gifted with such a keen eye, not only for hidden details, but connecting these esoteric elements to our own quotidian lives. It's incredible to get a glimpse at her interior world through her thought processes. I adore how she frames solitude in a positive light: in many ways, it is when we are alone that we become most in tune with our creative selves.

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