For those of us in the northern hemisphere currently experiencing lockdown, it likely feels very different to the lockdown we went through earlier this year. The shorter days and cooler weather makes cosying up indoors a much more appealing prospect than going outside. What better way to pass the time on these long autumn evenings than escaping into a good book? Whether you want to tackle the classics you’ve been putting off for years or just want to forget about this dumpfire of a year for a few hours, we hope you will find a suitable recommendation in this post.
Tackling the Classics
Classics can be intimidating, especially the long tomes that frequently appear on those 100 books to read before you die lists. Why not use lockdown to tick a few of them off?
Segu by Maryse Condé, 493pgs
An epic novel of family, treachery, rivalry, religious fervour and the turbulent fate of a royal African dynasty.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, 560pgs
A character study of Fanny Price who is adopted as a child by rich relatives so she may be brought up to become a proper young lady. We follow our protagonist as she makes her way in the world.
Middlemarch by George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans, 851pgs
A masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community.
Books to Make You Laugh
Let’s be honest, the world is in an absolute state at the moment. Reading the daily news can sometimes feel like we’re living in a real-life horror film. If you’re after a laugh as a break from the bleak, here are some suggestions.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby, 275pgs
In this painfully funny collection, Samantha Irby captures powerful emotional truths while chronicling the rubbish bin she calls her life.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, 312pgs
Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby? Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin answers the questions that every modern woman is asking.
Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe, 288pgs
We follow Lizzie Vogel on her journey to adulthood as she leaves her alcoholic, novel-writing mother and heads for Leicester to work for a racist, barely competent dentist obsessed with joining the freemasons. This novel will make you laugh while reminding you of the joy, and the pain, of being alive.
Books to Transport You
One of the best things about reading, is its ability to transport us into another world without us ever having to leave our armchairs. Here are some reads that will whisk you away from reality even if only for a few hours.
The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin, 512pgs
This contemporary fantasy novel is breathtakingly ambitious, blisteringly brilliant and peopled with a cast of unforgettable characters. The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth trilogy, continuing in The Obelisk Gate and concluding with The Stone Sky. It is the first series to win the Hugo best novel award three years in a row.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, 432pgs
Originally a self-published novel that became a word-of-mouth bestseller, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet launched a powerful and exciting new voice in science fiction and an original new universe further uncovered in the stand-alone sequel A Closed and Common Orbit.
Kindred by Octavia Butler, 320 pgs
Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 masterpiece and ground-breaking exploration of power and responsibility, is the extraordinary story of two people bound by blood, separated by so much more than time. Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.
Books to Inspire
While things may seem dark now, there will come a time to rebuild and we need to be ready to go when that time comes. These edifying and motivational reads will equip you with the tools you need to get back out there and smash the patriarchy when lockdown ends.
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given, 224pgs
This book will tell you to…love sex, hate sexism, protect your goddamn energy, life is short, dump them, and that you owe men nothing, least of all pretty.
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies curated by Scarlett Curtis, 400pgs
A collection of essays from some famous names including Kiera Knightley, Dolly Alderton and Jameela Jamil that redefines what it means to be a feminist.
Slay in Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene, 384pgs
Packed with real-life stories and interviews with dozens of iconic black women, this is an essential volume designed to inspire a generation of women of colour to succeed in everything, from work to internet dating.
With a 24-hour rolling cycle of seemingly never-ending bad news on our social media feeds, it can be hard to focus on reading even for the biggest of bookworms. If you are after something that is short but still thought-provoking why not try one of these reads.
How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak, 96pgs
Shafak reflects on our age of pessimism, when emotions guide and misguide our politics, and misinformation and fear are the norm. A tender, uplifting plea for optimism, Shafak draws on her own memories and delves into the power of stories to reveal how writing can nurture democracy, tolerance and progress.
Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith, 96 pgs
A profound, timely and exquisitely intimate collection of essays written in response to the crisis that put the world on pause in 2020. Empowering, lucid and lyrical, Zadie Smith’s meditations on life in lockdown are both sharply observant and deeply comforting.
Whites: On Race and Other Falsehoods by Otegha Uwagba, 80pgs
Short and incisive, Uwagba’s essay examines both racism and anti-racism through the prism of the Black Lives Matter movement and draws provocative conclusions about allyship, white privilege and the tension between opposing narratives.
There is of course nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to reading, whatever you choose to read is up to you and you should never feel ashamed of your reading tastes. Here are some books that will allow you to sit back and just be entertained.
Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, 336 pgs
Fielding’s achingly relatable and belly-laugh inducing classic combines romance with farce in a way that still feels refreshing and vibrant. The trials and tribulations of our endearing heroine are sketched in exquisite comic prose as Bridget is forced to choose between dependable Mark Darcy and roguish Daniel Cleaver.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, 384pgs
A smart and funny romance, The Hating Game follows Lucy and Joshua who sit across from each other every day . . . and hate each other. Now they’re up for the same promotion and Lucy, usually a determined people-pleaser, has had enough: it’s time to take him down. But as the tension between Lucy and Joshua reaches its boiling point, it’s clear that the real battle has only just begun . . .
The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella, 416pgs
A pitch perfect slice of feel-good fiction making masterful use of mistaken identity and character comedy along the way. Gloriously romantic and consistently hilarious, The Undomestic Goddess is fish-out-of-water farce of the highest order.
Written by Rachel Matthews