Whether you’re self-isolating or social distancing, chances are you’ll be spending more time at home, and that means - no excuses - it’s time to tackle that TBR pile.
Many of us have a book in mind we’ve always wanted to read, the trilogy we were going to settle down with ‘one day’ or a new book we love the sound of…if only there was time. Well, now it seems there may be a little more of it – and what better way to relieve stress than escaping into a good story?
Whether it’s a gripping thriller, a poignant drama or a sweeping romance – anything to escape the scary headlines for a while is a good thing. Here’s a selection of books to settle down with whatever your mood…
W&H’s shelf isolation reads
Whatever type of book you fancy reading, we have a suggestion…
#1. An absolute classic
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Of all the classics, why Middlemarch? This study of provincial life in the mid 19th century makes for fascinating reading, covering everything from religion, science and politics to human relationships. At its very heart is the story of Dorothea – a bright and beautiful woman who married the wrong man, and Tertius Lydgate who married the wrong woman, and from thereon in the human struggle to find contentment is evident.
Featuring a cast of wonderful characters including the comedic Fred Vincey and Mary Garth, this endearing novel set in a small English village is also primed to keep you on the edge of your seat. For these uneasy times, this is the classic to get lost in.
#2. The Booker-prize winner
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Hailed as a literary sensation, Mantel brings the Tudors to life with gusto. This magnificent historical fictionalisation of Thomas Cromwell takes place in Henry VIII’s court with his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, by his side. With a lack of heir, Henry wants to be freed from his marriage – and an ambitious Cromwell, having emerged as a powerful player in the King’s court, plays no small part in making this happen.
Mantel’s prize-winning novel recreates a vivid picture of the Tudor court, bringing its characters to life through exquisite prose – the perfect distraction.
#3. To feel uplifted
Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, Harper Collins, HB, £12.99
In these times of isolation, when many of us may be feeling a little lonely, it’s good to reflect on those who may feel that way much of the time.
In what’s been described as a ‘coming-of-old’ story, we meet prickly Millicent (Missy) who at 79 is quite lost. Grieving for her husband, a son living in Australia and a daughter she hasn’t spoken to for a year, she is lonely. That is until she meets two very different women – along with Bobby the adoring dog – who help her realise it doesn’t have to be that way. Featuring a cast of flawed but loveable characters, this is a story of friendship and the importance of not giving up on a second chance at life – and you will want to savour every moment of it.
#4. Good for the soul
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
If there was ever a book to lift your spirits, and break your heart along the way, this beautiful coming-of-age story is it. Set in civil war New England, the March sisters (Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy) along with their Marmee try to make the best of a difficult situation with an absent father. From the outset we witness them donating their breakfast to those more in need – most apt!
Growing up, many of us wanted to be like Jo – the feisty, wannabe writer who was expected to marry instead, but like a fine wine, this book matures and as an adult we see so many endearing characteristics in all the sisters. Enduring hardships, work, domesticity, grief and love, we watch the four sisters grow, and flourish into little women they can each be proud of.
It’s a positive, life-affirming story reminding children and adults alike to be themselves. You will emerge from this beautiful novel feeling ultimately joyful.
#5. For laughs
What Happens Now by Sophia Money-Coutts
If you’re looking for a book to make you laugh out loud, this is the one for you.
Newly single Lilian Bailey isn’t completely convinced about her quest to ‘get back out there’ after the supposed love of her life dumps her for his much younger colleague. But meeting impossibly handsome Max things start to look up. Until, that is, she finds herself pregnant and facing the biggest decision of her life.
Hilarious and believable, Lil is the perfect Bridget Jones-esque heroine in a novel packed with vibrant characters, comedic moments and emotional notes. This sparkling second novel from Sophia Money-Coutts will soon have you snorting with laughter.
#6. The ultimate escape
The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkein
Losing yourself in a fantasy world could be the antidote we all need right now. This classic trilogy will appeal to fantasy and historical fiction fans alike, with Tolkien’s flare for world-building drawing you into the fight for Middle Earth from the very first page.
Ultimately a tale of good versus evil, Tolkien explores how even the smallest action and person can sometimes make the greatest difference, as hobbit Frodo Baggins sets out to destroy the Ring of Power before it can be returned to his master, the Dark Lord Sauron. For if this should happen, he will claim dominion over all. With high stakes, attention-to-detail and a plot of epic proportions, this is most certainly one to settle down with.
#7. The thriller
Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
There’s nothing like a good thriller to take you somewhere else, and in our opinion this has to be one of the most compelling. It may be nine years ago but we still vividly remember Christine – the woman who wakes up every morning next to an unfamiliar man and looks in the mirror at an unrecognisable face. She only has her husband, Ben, to explain who she is and what went before. But could the one person she trusts be keeping things from her?
SJ Watson’s debut was a sure-fire hit from the start, later turned into a film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. And the best bit? If you enjoy this – which we’re sure you will – his new book Final Cut is coming out on 6th August.
#8. To move you
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
It may be spring, but with lots of sofa time ahead of us, now’s the time for a good old-fashioned love story – with a twist.
Clare and Henry met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible? Not so – for Henry suffers from a rare genetic condition that pulls him into the past or future. Arriving and disappearing spontaneously makes life very difficult for the two lovers, but they do their best to make it work.
Whilst the novel does have a sci-fi element, this is essentially a love story – a moving, poignant and at times, heartbreaking one, so have tissues to hand.
#9. The epic one
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
As we’re in for the long haul, it may be time to tackle the legendary book Gone With The Wind. At just over 1,000 pages, you’ll need to be committed, but it’s most certainly worth it.
A romantic and sweeping novel of epic proportions, we meet the spoilt but beautiful southern belle Scarlett O’Hara on her Georgian plantation. Navigating the perils of the American civil war, with a nation divided, she has her own trials and tribulations – including that of one of her many suitors – Rhett Butler.
Published in 1936 this enduring book made into an iconic film is a story for all our times – and at this very moment Scarlett’s words ring true in a time when we need to know that, ‘tomorrow is another day.’
Happy shelf-isolation reading!