AG’s Quarantine Survival Guide: Books

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Welcome the AG Quarantine Survival Guide. Today the AG staff will be recommending some of their favorite novels to read.

This stay at home thing is giving us cabin fever. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. No bars, no in person hangouts, and no sports. I guess we’ll just have to…ugh…read.

But don’t worry, AG has still got you covered to help ease that boredom, at least temporarily. Each staff member will be giving you their personal recommendations on various activities to help you get through this whole social distancing thing. We highly encourage y’all to share your picks in the comments below, as well.

Next up is the lovely world of books. You no longer have to go to the library or book store to get a book. Instead you can now download hundreds of stories straight to your phone. So, gals and guys…what have you been reading?


I’ll actually be giving you all multiple options, depending on what you are interested in:
1.) The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien: If you want a book to read to your kids to keep them entertained, this is the one. When I was in Kindergarten I used to wake up early every morning to listen to my Dad read it to me. Take some time to bond.
2.) Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley: This is for those of you wanting to learn something with your extra free time. Written in 1999, when scientists first mapped the entire human genome, it is slightly dated, but still offers plenty of knowledge. Ridley does a wonderful job of simplifying complex subject material, but if you’re like me, you still may want to take some notes.
3.) The Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: For entertainment and horror. With the passing of Michael Crichton, the world was left with a large gap in the Psuedoscience horror department. Luckily Preston and Child stepped up into the role. The first in a long series following detective Pendergast, The Relic opens in a New York Museum, where grizzly murders have been occurring, but who or what is responsible?


Rather than write it myself, I’ll make this less painless by using their back-cover blurb, and my entry is a military SF book, Redliners, by David Drake. I’ll save further comments until after the link to a free download, straight from the publisher.

They were the toughest fighters in the galaxy – until they got used up.

The mission: redemption – or death,
The troops were walking dead already,
so there wasn’t much of a downside.

Major Arthur Farrell and the troops of Strike Force Company C41 had seen too much war with the alien Kalendru. They had too many screaming memories to be fit for combat again, but they were far too dangerous to themselves and others to be returned to civilian life.

The bureaucracy that administered human affairs arranged a final mission with the same ruthless efficiency as it conducted the war against the Kalendru. C41 would guard a colony being sent to a hell planet. If the troops succeeded, they might be ready to return to human society.

When the mission went horribly wrong, Art Farrell and his troops found their lives on the line as never before, protecting civilians to whom bureaucratic injustice was a new experience. And there was one more thing…

A story of soldiers and civilians,
of hope and, possibly, redemption.

My ulterior motive here is to say that even if this book doesn’t suit your taste, the Baen Free Library has books in it that cover a wide, wide range of books to choose from. Check it out and see, what do you have to lose?

Caution: This story is an extreme example from an author well-known for not hiding the horrors of war, and the horror elements of the story he borrowed from that genre are pretty grim and horrific. This is not a children’s book and some folks might want to avoid it, because Drake doesn’t glamorize anything about war in this one. At all. Just a clear picture of the story which in itself adds to the horror elements. Discretion is advised.


For non-fiction, I highly recommend Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra (father of the Miami Heat head coach). While it’s aimed at marketing (hence the title), I really view it more as a lifestyle guide. As you can probably guess from the title, he teaches that you shouldn’t be scared to be aggressive and different.

For fiction, two recommendations are The Tripods series (a main trilogy plus prequel) and The Seventh Tower (6 books). Both are sci-fi/fantasy stories that are great. The biggest problem with them is that they’re more aimed for children, which sucks because it limits the world building and sometimes makes things unrealistic (something The Tripods in particular struggles with), but they’re still good enough to be enjoyed be the young as well as the young at heart.


I am not a huge reader; outside of football film work and breakdowns, I have limited time nowadays but the Harry Potter series is easily one of my favorites, hands down. I have read all of them multiple times through and have been considering doing it again recently. I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s because I was read them growing up, but I love them and there are 7 of them, so it does take a little bit of time to get through. I also am a fan of Steven King novels. Horror isn’t always the easiest to convey through the written word but King does a great job, most of the time.


1.) 1776 by David McCullough. I am a huge history buff, as you all are have already been exposed (ehh probably a poor word choice these days) to with Wartime Wednesdays. This book though does a great job of breaking down the most pivotal year of the Revolutionary War. I have actually read it twice now.

2.) The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, and Other Affairs of Plain Living by Eliot Wigginton. This is actually just 1 book in a series of 14 or 15 I think. My dad gave me a paperback that I carried and read through during my first Iraq tour. Very informative and great detailed look at how people have adapted and lived off the land. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but I highly recommend this one.

3.) The Montana Vigilantes 1863-1870 by Mark C. Dillon. A few years ago in one of my history classes in college we were given a book report assignment. We were told to choose from a list of books the professor had submitted, or head to the library and find a book that fit the certain time frame (American Westward expansion period). I found this book, got permission to read it and was completely blown away. I got an A on my final paper for the class, and the professor emailed me directly to say he was ordering the book off of Amazon to read. Gold mining, bushwhacking, hangings, territorial courts, it has it all. A good read.


Since it appears like we all have a bit of time to kill, I’ll recommend the series “The Expanse”. It is a sci-fi series set in the near future, where the human race has mastered travel within our solar system, but not interstellar travel. Colonization of the planets – Mars and the outer planets – has created tensions between the citizens of those planets (known as the “Belters”) and the citizens of Earth. But a threat from outside may force them to work together after all when an alien artifact enters the solar system and starts multiplying. Its intentions are unclear and it is far more powerful than humankind. This is a good, easy-to-read series for anyone to pick up.


Wait, we’re still not all reading our dad’s Playboy collection?

Now let’s all head to the Winchester and wait for this whole thing to blow over.
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04/06/2020 1:17 pm

guess i’ll hafta start back through my Stephen King collection….I have them all up through 2012…looks like I need few more to complete my collection…

04/04/2020 4:27 pm

Any thing by Clive Cussler, particularly the Dirk Pitt series
Stephen Hunter Dirty White Boys, or anything from the Bob Lee Swaggar seriess
MY FAVORITE OF ALL TIME IS…….”LAST OF THE BREED” by Louis Lamour. It is a non western.

04/04/2020 4:14 pm

The Lord of the Rings is always a favorite (and I’m currently going through the Arabic version), but I have also found some other decent reads and have been enjoying those.

Tony Sommer
04/04/2020 3:35 pm

I didn’t realize this was coming out so soon, I was going to change my fiction pick to the Wayside School series. I only have one (Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger), and it’s definitely aimed at kids, but it’s still hilarious and has the type of silly humor that AGers love.

For example:

“But before you enter, you should know something about Wayside School. Wayside School is a thirty-story building with one room on each floor, except there is no nineteenth story.

Mrs. Jewls teaches the class on the thirtieth story.

Miss Zarves teaches the class on the nineteenth story. There is no Miss Zarves.

Understand? Good; explain it to me.”

Reply to  Tony Sommer
04/04/2020 3:47 pm

Those books were hilarious.

04/04/2020 2:17 pm


Since it appears like we all have a bit of time to kill, I’ll recommend the series “The Expanse”.

John, watching that now. Pretty good after I got into it. About to finish season 2

04/04/2020 1:51 pm

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04/04/2020 12:58 pm

I usually read techno-thrillers by people like Tom Clancy or science fiction by almost everyone who writes it. For a change of pace I picked up “Victorian Tales of Mystery & Detection”, 30 shorter stories by people like C. Dickens, E.A. Poe, A.C. Doyle and others from the 19th century. They are forcing me to relearn the King’s English and to look up many outdated words, phrases, and references, still a pretty good read so far.

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Reply to  vvet818
04/04/2020 2:29 pm

E. E. Smith’s Lensman series kinda splits the difference on that. I’ll grant that they might come off as cliche’, but that’s because so many people emulated it afterward, at the time Doc wrote them they were completely fresh concepts. Furthermore, Smith was born in 1890 and he grew up in a completely different culture, so his worldview’s colored by that and it comes through in his writing.

If nothing else they offer something like H G. Wells’ SF books; a chance to see the views of the future that were held by those in the past. That some of those futures are now known to be impossible (F’rex using a cannon to launch people to the moon) or have become too mundane for comment (powered heavier-than-air flight) aren’t “bugs” in such books, they’re historical-psychological features that allow a glimpse into minds that saw changes coming and made a guess at where they would lead, so you can compare how those forecasts match eventual outcomes. Playing “gotcha” with them and laughing about how foolish we now know some of those predictions are is fun, but only a small part of the point, and one that will mislead you if you aren’t careful, as these were not stupid people, just farther back on accumulated knowledge.

04/04/2020 12:22 pm

You need to have a dry sense of humor, but this is really an entertaining way to waste a few hours
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Reply to  WaywerdSon
04/04/2020 2:45 pm

The Red Dwarf series by “Grant Naylor” is in the same goofy space genre as this. Different universe entirely, but still fun.

Reply to  WaywerdSon
04/04/2020 4:28 pm

A trilogy in 5 parts.

zulu trader
04/04/2020 12:11 pm

he teaches that you shouldn’t be scared to be aggressive and different.

Hell yeah!

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