Now that South Africa’s lockdown has been extended, we’ll all be spending more time at home. For bookworms, this means it’s finally time to tackle that ‘to be read’ books pile.
Many of us have a book in mind we’ve always wanted to read, or the trilogy we were going to settle down with ‘one day’. Some of you may have even said, “If only I had the 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?
Now is the perfect time to jump right into a book you like the sound of. Anything to escape the scary headlines for a while is a good thing. There are some incredible books on the market, ranging from haunting thrillers and poignant dramas to sweeping romantic tales. And to help you decide, here’s our selection of books to settle down with during lockdown…
Our pick of shelf-isolation books for every mood…
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 and politics to human relationships. At its very heart is the story of Dorothea – a bright and beautiful woman who married the wrong man. There’s also Tertius Lydgate, who married the wrong woman.
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. It’s a classic to get lost in, especially in these uncertain times.
2. To feel uplifted
A Summer Reunion by Fanny Blake
Amy heads to Mallorca with three friends (Linda, Kate, Jane) after making a shocking discovery about her husband. She hopes to gain some advice while on this trip, but what she gets is something else entirely.
Will the trip to a beautiful setting bring the four women closer? Or will it tear them apart? Fun and full of wisdom. We’d highly recommend this read for a dose of escapism.
3. Good for the soul
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This beautiful coming-of-age story is a book to lift your spirits (and break your heart along the way). 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.
4. 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.
5. To move you
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
With lots of couch 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.
6. 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.
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7. 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 after 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.
8. The epic book
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”.
9. 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.
Happy lockdown isolation reading!
Features writer by trade, music lover and fine-line illustrator by nature. As an expert on the ’70s era, Marike will happily introduce you to her record collection. She’s passionate about African art and culture. And if she’s not off on an adventure, you’ll most likely find her making coffee.