Books to read to escape during self-isolation: an essential reading list

March 26, 2020

Books to read to escape during self-isolation: an essential reading list

There's no time like the present to read all those books you wanted to read but didn't have the time to; so take a break from Netflix , pick up a book and immerse yourself in an alternate reality. If you need some inspiration, our good friend and author Stephanie Seddon, has recommended some great books to read while in self-isolation. Stephanie has also included some options for younger readers.   


Stephen Pinker, Enlightenment Now

Pinker outlines the forces that have allowed continuous human progress since the enlightenment - reason, science and humanism. He explains what gets in the way of reasoned debate - what makes us think things are getting worse when they are in fact getting better. Using statistical evidence to support every argument, he brings coherent thinking to a hectic world and makes you feel good about the state of the world, COVID-19 or not.



Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light

Hillary Mantel, Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies, The Mirror and the Light

When Mantel followed her Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall with the masterful sequel Bring up the Bodies, she pulled off a rare Booker double-act, but the arrival of her epic third volume in this remarkable Tudor trilogy could overtake that triumph.  The Mirror and the Light sees Mantel’s hero Thomas Cromwell navigating a post-Boleyn world of shadows and ghosts. In the words of a Guardian book reviewer, “Someone give the Booker judges the rest of the year off.”



Bernard Moitessier, The Long Way

Bernard Moitessier, The Long Way

Join the legendary French sailor turned spiritual guru on the ultimate journey of isolation – a non-stop, solo, round-the-world race on his 40 foot steel ketch Joshua.  Conversing with dolphins, naked yoga on-deck, Moitessier’s extraordinary story pays homage to the beauty and madness of self-imposed solitude. 



rory stewart, the places in between

Rory Stewart, The Places In Between

The former Tory leadership candidate won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize with this riveting account of his journey-on-foot through the tribal region of Afghanistan in the months after 9/11. Doggedly following in the footsteps of the 16th century Mughal emperor Barbur, Stewart’s sparse, poetic style brings vividly to life the complexity, ideology and generosity of the communities living between ancient civilisations and modern-day war. 



Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Stephen King’s plague novel The Stand is seeing a surge in popularity but if delving into pandemic literature seems all too real right now, why not start with this Gothic Horror classic about a misunderstood monster and his tormented maker. Holed up in Geneva with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, Mary Shelley’s classic was inspired by a competition to write the best ghost story. The enduring humanity of her monstrous creation stands testament to the power of the unrestrained creative mind. 

For younger readers…



Dear Evan Hansen

Val Emmich, Dear Evan Hansen (ages 13-15)

A powerful exploration of friendship and grief, the New York Times bestseller Dear Evan Hansen is a sweet and funny story about a boy whose life turns around on a lie. Author Val Emmich navigates difficult themes with aplomb; bullying, mental health and suicide are not for the fainthearted but handled here with sensitivity, empathy and humour. A timely reminder that isolation strikes, even in this most connected of worlds.

the phoenix comicbooks

The Phoenix Comic (ages 7-14)

This imaginative kids’ magazine has a fantastic range of stories; from Corpse Talk, where a dead celebrity is dug up and interviewed, to Looshkin, the insane but loveable blue cat, Phoenix is silly, hilarious and beautifully drawn. It’s where Philip Pullman published his acclaimed graphic novel John Blake in serial form, and is home to competitions and activities galore.  Order by subscription and there’ll be a race to the post every Friday; a fun addition to any family reading list.



The Lost Words, Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, The Lost Words 

This ‘book of spells’ collaboration between acclaimed landscape writer Robert Macfarlane and the award-winning illustrator Jackie Morris became an instant classic. Seeking to restore the lost words of nature to childhood vocabularies, Morris’s gorgeous illustrations of acorns, hares, starlings and wrens and MacFarlane’s ‘spells of many kind’ will lead your little ones to hedgerows, gardens and fields this spring and summer.


So turn off your phone and the tv, step away from the noise and get lost in your imagination with the help of one of these great reads. If you do not get through all the books during self-isolation, you can always take one of these with you when you go on your first trip post Covid-19!

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