Experts > Jenny Davidson

Jenny Davidson's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Jenny Davidson recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Jenny Davidson's favorite book recommendations of all time.



Maybe it's the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma's offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance.

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonIt’s a brilliant book, the one on this list that I most strongly recommend to people trying to take their mind off the news. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.

The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives—the dark conspiracy behind the infected.

The truth will get out, even if it kills them.
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonThis is a whole series of books by one of the most popular writers in science fiction and fantasy working today. When the first book came out, I devoured it. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

In 1665, the Great Plague swept through London, claiming nearly 100,000 lives. In A Journal of the Plague Year, Defoe vividly chronicles the progress of the epidemic. We follow his fictional narrator through a city transformed-the streets and alleyways deserted, the houses of death with crosses daubed on their doors, the dead-carts on their way to the pits-and encounter the horrified citizens of the city, as fear, isolation, and hysteria take hold. The shocking immediacy of Defoe's description of plague-racked London makes this one of the most convincing accounts of the Great Plague... more
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonWhen Defoe was writing in the 1720s, the novel was a new and emerging genre. Novelists were hungry for good material, so Defoe looked back sixty years to the bubonic plague that struck London around 1665, the year before the Great Fire of London. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

An alternative cover for this ISBN can be found here

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie...
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonYoung adult books often cut to the heart of human relationships. Literature for young people sometimes simplifies things by making them metaphorical, by moving them into a fairy-tale world. That often means YA stories give us some of the most profound stories of human relationships. Howl’s Moving Castle is a story of this caliber. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


A True Novel

A remaking of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan
A True Novel begins in New York in the 1960s, where we meet Taro, a relentlessly ambitious Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune. Flashbacks and multilayered stories reveal his life: an impoverished upbringing as an orphan, his eventual rise to wealth and success—despite racial and class prejudice—and an obsession with a girl from an affluent family that has haunted him all his life. A True Novel then widens into an examination of Japan’s westernization and the emergence of a...
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonIn explaining to the reader how these characters relate to one another, Mizamura is never writing about it as a strictly personal interaction. She details how socioeconomic changes in Japan in the post-war years, the relative status of the different families in the novel and the changes in Japan’s status around the world shape the fate of her characters and the dynamic between them. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


Just Above My Head

The stark grief of a brother mourning a brother opens this novel with a stunning, unforgettable experience.  Here, in a monumental saga of love and rage, Baldwin goes back to Harlem, to the church of his groundbreaking novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, to the homosexual passion of Giovanni's Room, and to the political fire that enflames his nonfiction work.  Here, too, the story of gospel singer Arthur Hall and his family becomes both a journey into another country of the soul and senses--and a living contemporary history of black struggle in this land. less
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonThis is my favorite novel by James Baldwin; it was his last one, published in 1979. You don’t hear as much about it as you do about his early novels. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


Cyrano de Bergerac

This acclaimed adaptation for the stage has garnered such reviews as: "Emotional depth Rostand himself would surely have envied...Burgess' extravagant verse keeps its contours, yet trips off the tongue almost as though it were contemporary speech." -London Times. Performance rights available from Applause. less

Ruth HarrisIt is set in the 17th century. Cyrano de Bergerac is the play’s hero, a cadet – a nobleman serving as a solider in the French army – and he’s deformed, with a nose so enormous that people come from far and wide to view his “protuberance”. He falls madly in love with his cousin Roxane, who is witty and leaned, but because of what he believes to be his outward ugliness he cannot proclaim his love... (Source)

Jenny DavidsonThe love story that is told in Cyrano, with its bittersweet, heartbreaking ending, is one of the most powerful I’ve ever encountered. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...



Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one... more
Recommended by Jenny Davidson, and 1 others.

Jenny DavidsonPersuasion is an unusually brilliant novel, just in terms of its style of narration. Out of all of the novels Austen published in her short life, this one feels most to me like a real love story. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


The Decameron

The Decameron (c.1351) is an entertaining series of one hundred stories written in the wake of the Black Death. The stories are told in a country villa outside the city of Florence by ten young noble men and women who are seeking to escape the ravages of the plague. Boccaccio's skill as a dramatist is masterfully displayed in these vivid portraits of people from all stations in life, with plots that revel in a bewildering variety of human reactions.

Translated with an Introduction and Notes by G. H. McWilliam
Recommended by Marion Turner, Jenny Davidson, and 2 others.

Marion TurnerThe Decameron specifically is a story about ten people who decide to escape the plague by going to a lovely country house with their servants. They tell stories there: ten stories a day for ten days, so there are 100 stories. The stories tend to be very, very funny. A lot of them are very rude. (Source)

Jenny DavidsonThe premise of the book is that a group of young noblemen and -women, people of great privilege who have been able to flee the plague-ridden city, are telling each other stories to while away their time together in the luxurious villa to which they’ve retreated. The description of the plague in the frame narrative is very vivid and quite horrifying; it sets a dark tone. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


The plague

A gripping tale of human unrelieved horror, of survival and resilience, and of the ways in which humankind confronts death, The Plague is at once a masterfully crafted novel, eloquently understated and epic in scope, and a parable of ageless moral resonance, profoundly relevant to our times. In Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the plague begins as a series of portents, unheeded by the people. It gradually becomes a omnipresent reality, obliterating all traces of the past and driving its victims to almost unearthly extremes of suffering, madness, and compassion. less

Jenny DavidsonAlbert Camus’s The Plague probably remains the best-known novel on the topic of epidemic disease. It tells the story of those involved in an epidemic in a North African setting. It is very interested in the details about how quarantines are enforced and the role not just of the government, but of individuals who band together into groups to manage the epidemic. (Source)

Stephen BreyerHe talks about the plague. Well, the plague is that part of a human being which can be very evil. That germ, he says at the end, never dies, it simply goes into remission. It lurks. It lurks in the cupboards, it lurks in the hallways, it lurks in the filing cabinets. (Source)

Arthur AmmannIt’s an amazing book, considering Camus probably never personally experienced a plague. In his novel, Camus captured everything that we were dealing with in the Aids epidemic without Aids existing at that time. Without his knowing what the consequences of the HIV plague were going to be, he seems to have gotten all the actors in there and the myriad of things that you wrestle with. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

Don't have time to read Jenny Davidson's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.