If you’ve been feeling anxious, restless, depressed, exhausted or overwhelmed, firstly you’re in very good company, and secondly, a reading prescription might help. None of these books are about global pandemics, but this list includes plenty of wise, kind voices that will guide us through the dark days and make us laugh. Here is a selection chosen to uplift, distract and charm as well as bringing perspective and warmth. If nothing else, these books are much more relaxing than watching TV as none of them contain any pictures of Chris Whitty bellowing, “STAY INDOORS.”
What the world needs now is Zadie Smith – cool, calm, collected, capable of interrogating and contradicting herself while remaining absolutely clear and measured. Changing My Mind is an essay collection that is witty, provocative and beautiful – you’re being guided through high and low culture by your cleverest, funniest friend. Even though she’s talking about the arts, she’s the balanced voice we all need to channel when the headlines start to get a bit alarmist.
This is the epic story of Edward Feathers, a Raj orphan who becomes a wealthy, famous QC – his life is dramatic, but it’s Gardam’s storytelling itself that is the star of the show here. It’s compelling because it’s so shocking, and yet so universal. It’s about living such a painful and extraordinary life, that comfort, regularity and boredom become quite thrilling. It’s also a celebration of snatching pleasure when we can get it.
This dark, funny novel is the cautionary tale of a woman who chooses the life that we are all being forced to lead. After a devastating break up, she decides that she will stay in bed and sleep off a year of her life, assisted by strong pharmaceuticals, until she feels cleansed, rested and ready to start again. If you need help seeing the funny side of the situation, this will do the trick – and if you’ve been neglecting the shower, the wilfully grubby heroine will inspire you to get out of your pyjamas and have a wash.
Are the Boomers in your life becoming increasingly difficult to control? Are your beloved older relatives threatening to sneak onto abandoned golf courses, holding hands and skipping in the street, or constantly threatening to “just pop” to a local speakeasy? Set in a home for the elderly, Stibbe’s second novel – which follows on from the brilliant Man At The Helm – stars a teenage Lizzie Voegel, who gives us a masterclass in how to marshal, safeguard and entertain large groups of pensioners. It’s also a book about what home means, and finding sweetness and silliness in unexpected places.
When the waspish, glamorous Fintan is diagnosed with cancer, his best friends Tara, Katherine and Liv don’t know whether to rally together or fall apart, so they do a bit of both. During these Unprecedented Times, we are seeing the very best and worst of people, and Marian Keyes is so brilliant at capturing every single shade of humanity. This book will make you feel that it is perfectly fine to feel furious, frustrated and miserable about tiny things, while a big thing is going on. She also nails the way that we will do anything we can to avoid confronting mortality, because when we admit that life is short, we’re forced to start living it.
If you’re missing your social life, this book is the perfect substitute. It’s the story of Alison, a spoiled, breathless, hilarious 20-year-old acting student, who is literally blowing her way through the allowance that her wealthy father is sending her to keep her afloat in Manhattan. Alison and her equally charming, bratty friends are excessively fond of cocaine. Their social rampage is fun, furious and exhausting. It’s a bender by proxy, and you’ll be glad that you’ve been forced to stay indoors.
This book has everything that we’re missing in these Unprecedented Times. When Katherine is introduced to her university tutor’s sons, she ends up falling in love with the whole family. If you can’t be with the people you love right now, the Goldmans’ cosy universe makes a decent substitute for the comforts of home. And Katherine takes a trip to Rome. We all thought Italian holidays were off the table, but if you read this, you get to go on a little mid book break!
By Daisy Buchanan @thedaisybee
P.S. Daisy Buchanan’s book The Sisterhood: A Love Letter To The Women Who Have Shaped Us is a memoir/feminist celebration. In it, she tells the story of what it was like to grow up with five little sisters, and then explores sisterhood in a global sense – the way womanhood throws us together and sets us apart, and how we can all lift each other up and learn to adore and endure each other.