At home in Aspen: Book recommendations from Aspen Words |

At home in Aspen: Book recommendations from Aspen Words

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Getty Images


Explore Booksellers closed on Tuesday, March 17. But local readers can still get their books and e-books from Aspen’s only bookstore.

Explore is taking orders by phone at 970-925-5336 and via email at

Orders are being left on the porch at Explore’s shop on Main Street for pick-up and shipping is free via the postal service.

You can also buy your audio downloads through the local shop at When you start a membership on the site with the code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, 100% of your payment will go to Explore. It also gets you two books for the price of one.

As the new coronavirus upends daily life in the Roaring Fork Valley and around the world, and people look for ways to practice self-care and take a break from reading the latest bad news, we asked the local experts for book recommendations.

The staff of the literary nonprofit Aspen Words has recommended 12 books to read right now. Their selections range from escapist page-turning novels to enlightening works of historical fiction about crises, from a prize-winning biography of Stonewall Jackson to just flat-out great reads (and a few Aspen Words-related authors).

You can find them all in e-book form online from home.

And stay tuned to and the nonprofit’s social handles for more picks and initiatives to bring the Aspen Words literary community online while we’re all at home.

“During these uncertain times,” the staff wrote in an email to supporters, “we believe Aspen Words’ mission to connect people through literature and stories is more vital than ever and we’ll be working in myriad ways to continue to create literary community.”


“Recollections of My Nonexistence” by Rebecca Solnit

Historian and activist Rebecca Solnit has written more than twenty books. I find her work endlessly thought-provoking and am eager to hear her thoughts on what she describes as the “consequences of the voicelessness that was and still is the ordinary condition of women.”

“Writers & Lovers” by Lily King

I became a fan of Lily King when I read her critically-acclaimed novel, “Euphoria,” which sent me on a reading binge of all her previous works of fiction. I loved every single one and have been eagerly awaiting this this novel for months!


“Weather” by Jenny Offill

The timing of reading this book feels a bit eerie in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Offilll examines a sense of doom in the face of climate change and the changing political landscape. She covers these subjects through humor, anxiety, panic, and disaster preparedness. Also, her sentences are delicious.

“Rebel Yell” by S.C. Gwynne

When I feel unsettled by current events, I turn to our troubled history. It helps me with perspective, and I learn so much about we humans.


“The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett

When my mind races I like to turn to books that are simultaneously engrossing and comforting. Ann Patchett delivers this time after time, with absorbing novels that let you enter another, yet familiar world. For a time that feels so strange and unfamiliar a book rigorously rooted in nostalgia feels like the right remedy.

“The Firm” by John Grisham

Other times, when things feel out of control, leaning in is the best escape. John Grisham is the master of page-turning thriller/mysteries and his debut novel “The Firm” is a wonderful place to enter the whirlwind Grisham universe – which has nearly unlimited options for readers craving an escape full of creep, twists and turns.


“The Shetland: The Four Seasons” by Ann Cleeves

These novels feature brooding detective Jimmy Perez, who solves crimes in Scotland’s remove, starkly beautiful Shetland Islands. I find these novels satisfying, in these uncertain times, because I know there’ll be a resolution by the end of the book; the crimes will be solved. The novels also serve as the basis for the popular BBC TV show “Shetland” (available on Amazon Prime video).

”Saint” X by Alexis Schaitkin

In this smart thriller, events are set in motion by the mysterious death of a teenage American tourist on a fictional Caribbean island. This page-turning novel is an examination of race, class and obsession.


“The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai

This beautiful story is set mainly in 1980’s Chicago, during another otherworldly crisis in public health—the AIDS epidemic. It parallels the art world of 1920s Paris with that of Paris in 2015 and examines the ways in which the Lost Generation of artists working post-World War I continue to speak to us through universal stories of loss, friendship and in celebration of chosen families.

“Your House Will Pay” by Steph Cha

Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, this novel explores the fraught tensions between African American and Korean American communities living in Los Angeles. Alternating between eras, from the Rodney King riots in the 1990s to present day, this story taught me so much about a complicated slice of recent American history, with consequences that reverberate today.


“The Yellow House” by Sarah Broom

I chose “The Yellow House because Sarah Broom is coming to Aspen Summer Words and I’ve always been fascinated by New Orleans, a city I’ve never visited. Also, it is a National Book Award winner!

”Smacked” by Eilene Zimmerman

I’ve been wanting to read “Smacked” ever since Eilene attended Summer Words, met her agent, and published her New York Times piece “The Lawyer, The Addict”. I also have a weird obsession with books about addiction.