Recommended Reads From Our Librarians

Just because you’re sheltering-in-place doesn’t mean you can’t still explore! 

We asked UC San Diego librarians to recommend great reads for while you’re safe at home. Travel across the U.S., dive deep into the wonderful world of wine, and immerse yourself in a beautiful love story, all from the comfort of your home!

All of the items on this list are available for free online, either through the UC San Diego Library or the San Diego Public Library. 

Field Notes on Science and Nature edited by Michael R. Canfield

Genre: Communication in Science

Nominated by Jenny Reiswig

Biological Sciences Librarian

On this pick: Pioneering a new niche in the study of plants and animals in their natural habitat, this book allows readers to peer over the shoulders and into the notebooks of a dozen eminent field workers, to study firsthand their observational methods, materials, and fleeting impressions.

Find it here:


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Genre: Fiction

Nominated by Korey Brunetti

Health Sciences Librarian and Asst. Director, Academic Engagement & Learning Services Program

On this pick: During this period of daily uncertainty, what better time to self-isolate in Saunders’ “bardo,” a Buddhist concept describing the liminal space between death and rebirth. Strange, moving, hilarious and heartbreaking, the novel’s narrators are a collection of chatty, disenfranchised ghosts–from every corner of Civil War era society–that mingle with (and attempt to advise) the living.

Find it here:

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Genre: Napoleonic War Naval Fiction

Nominated by Roger Smith

Interim Associate University Librarian, Scholarly Resources and Services

On this pick: Be transported to a time long gone, adventure and friendship on the high seas by an author often compared to Jane Austen for his command of period culture and language.

Find it here:


The Best American Travel Writing (2016) edited by Bill Bryson

Genre: Travel Writing

Nominated by Crystal Goldman

Instruction Coordinator/Librarian

On this pick: Travel writing helps you to imagine other places, and usually relates the hilarious mishaps that often arise when we travel. We could all use a laugh AND the chance to get out of our homes right now, even if it’s just through a story. In addition to the 2016 volume I recommended (I just love Bill Bryson’s work), the Library also has ebooks of the Best American Travel Writing series for 2013, 2014, and 2018.

Find it here:


The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Genre: Non-Fiction

Nominated by Tamara Rhodes

Librarian for Psychology, Cognitive Science, Human Developmental Sciences, and Linguistics

On this pick: Since we’re stuck staring at things in our home anyway, we might as well analyze it. Who knows! Maybe someone will design something new and more effective.

Find it here:


The Evolving Animal Orchestra by Henkjan Honing

Genre: Non-Fiction

Nominated by Peter Mueller

Music Librarian

On this pick: The author attempts to discover if humans share the trait of musicality with other animals. Charles Darwin believed that musicality was a capacity of all animals, human and nonhuman, with a clear biological basis.

Find it here:

The Seed Collectors: A Novel by Scarlett Thomas

Genre: Fiction

Nominated by Annelise Sklar

Interim Director, Research Advisory Services

On this pick: An intricate story of family, love, adventure, and exotic plants.

Find it here:


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Genre: Extravagant Fiction/Storytelling

Nominated by Mary Linn Bergstrom

Librarian for Bioinformatics & Systems Biology, and Neurosciences

On this pick: Daniel Sempere, son of a bookshop owner, visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and picks out The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax; remarkable events ensue (translated from Spanish).

Find it here:

Translated to English Audibook:

Spanish e-Book:


Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists by Mike Veseth

Genre: Food & Wine Non-Fiction

Nominated by Amy Work

GIS Librarian

On this pick: A fascinating look at the geography, economics, and globalization of the wine industry written from the perspective of an economist.

Find it here: