British Columbians are sticking close to home these days, making it the perfect summer to discover local writers and catch up on some reading.
And Evelyn Gillespie, owner of Laughing Oyster Bookshop in Courtenay, B.C., has a few recommendations to add to your list.
Whether you are into fiction, natural history or poetry, Gillespie has you covered.
Here are a few of her top picks for pandemic page-turners:
San Josef by Harold Macy
This piece of historical fiction is set in 1897 and features two central characters in a struggling Danish settlement on the far northwest corner of Vancouver Island.
Clayton Monroe is a civil war refugee seeking solace and safety away from the United States. And for Anika Frederickson, the now failing settlement of San Josef was her dream.
"It's really a worthwhile read, particularly if you are travelling on Vancouver Island," said Gillespie.
According to Gillespie, author Harold Macy, who lives in the Comox Valley, worked on the book for two decades.
Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel, who grew up on Denman Island, is the author of two books Gillespie says are both relevant right now.
In Station Eleven, a flu-like pandemic wipes out most of mankind in a matter of weeks and the story then picks up again 20 years later.
The novel follows the interconnected lives of several characters — actors, artists and those closest to them — before and after the plague. And, perhaps surprisingly, it's not a complete downer.
"It's a celebration of beauty and art and how those are the kinds of things that sustain our civilization," said Gillespie.
She also recommends St. John Mandel's latest novel, The Glass Hotel, which weaves together several narratives revolving around a financial collapse.
Inspired by the real-life Bernie Madoff financial fraud scandal, the novel is a character study of people who profit and the lives that are compromised as a result.
Lampedusa by Steven Price
This novel by Victoria-based writer and poet Steven Price is set in Sicily in the 1950s and follows the struggle of Giuseppe Tomasi, the last prince of Lampedusa, to write a novel that will be his lasting legacy.
"There is this element of destruction and decay, but then also purpose: what is the purpose of my life?" Gillespie said about Price's story, which was was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2019.
Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds
This collection of poetry, edited by Victoria's former poet laureate, Yvonne Blomer, pays homage to rivers that are under threat from pollution and human activity.
Poets from across North America and the UK write about the waterways they love and worry about, including the Fraser River, the Chilcotin River and the Peace River Canyon.
Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds is the second in a trilogy of water-based poetry anthologies.
Flora and fauna identification
Gillespie said she noticed a spike in interest during the pandemic for natural history books, especially books that identify flora and fauna.
"People have time and they are interested in their natural environment," she said.
For these keeners, she recommends two books: The Flora and Fauna of Coastal British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, and Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast by Collin Varner.
Varner, head of the horticulture department at the University of British Columbia, is a knowledgeable guide to what's growing under foot while you're exploring B.C., or even just your own backyard, this summer.
To hear the complete Early Edition interview with Evelyn Gillespie, owner of Laughing Oyster Bookshop, tap the audio link below: