Social isolation reads: Our top picks

Reading recommendations

With almost the whole world in lockdown, the situation we’re in better resembles the contents of a sci-fi novel than anything to do with real life. Days melt into one another, time stands still, and we’ve watched everything on Netflix. It’s a strange time, to say the least.

And though we have little idea how COVID-19 will play out, what we do have control over is how we adjust to the mammoth changes in our own lives. We’re spending a hell of a lot of time indoors, and we all need to take steps to prevent (or at least delay) the onset of full-blown cabin fever.

So, once all the bread has been baked and the memes have been shared, you should curl up with a good book. You’ll get a lot of comfort from a book, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, or the autobiography of some long-forgotten celebrity. 

With our top 10 recommendations, you can happily transport yourselves to other worlds.  Take a look.

1. Conversations With Friends, by Sally Rooney

You’ve probably heard of Sally Rooney and her two masterworks, Conversations With Friends (2017) and Normal People (2018). They’ve received critical praise from the Twittersphere right up to publications like The Sunday Times (which awarded her Young Writer of the Year in 2017). 

Conversations With Friends is the story of Frances and Bobbi and their experiences as twenty-something creatives, navigating modern life the best they can. With sharp wit and a compelling insight into female friendship, Conversations With Friends makes for an addictive read.

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson

A vivid and intoxicating read, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) dabbles in danger so you don’t have to. If you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know what we’re talking about. The novel tells the topsy turvy story of Raoul Duke, a madcap journalist and Dr. Gonzo, his long-suffering attorney, on their perilous crusade through vast deserts and the lights of Las Vegas. 

The first in what would be known as ‘gonzo journalism’, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas creates a protagonist with striking similarities to its writer. Both are dedicated to a bold new brand of journalism, where ‘telling the story’ isn’t enough – they want to be in the story. Driven by this passion, a cherry-red Cadillac Eldorado, and more than a few chemical influences, Hunter S. Thompson’s book reads like a fever dream and will keep you on your toes. 

DISCLAIMER: don’t try anything you read in this book, no matter how bored you are.

3. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Written by Kazuo Ishiguro and released in 2005, Never Let Me Go gives you a captivating insight into a dystopian world. Admittedly, today’s world might seem dystopian enough but don’t let this put you off. Never Let Me Go is also a coming of age story, told through the eyes of Kathy H., a young student whose friendship with Ruth and Tommy soon unfolds into an intimate yet troubled love triangle (that’s not a spoiler, by the way).

Ishiguro’s novel, like most of his others, can charm yet trouble its readers in one fell swoop. Unravelling the puzzle of this novel will be one of the more joyful moments of your lockdown. (of course, the bar is low but you’ll have a lot of fun nonetheless).

4. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King

Stephen King needs no introduction. The writer who brought us The Shining, IT, and plenty other page turners published Salem’s Lot in 1975 to critical acclaim. The novel tells the story of Ben Mears, a writer who begrudgingly returns to his hometown, Jerusalem’s Lot, to find that it has been infested with vampires. While Salem’s Lot might not necessarily calm your nerves, you’d be hard-pushed to find a Stephen King book that does! The book has all the calling cards of classic King: tension, atmosphere, character depth, and a compelling story arc. 

Honestly, you could choose any Stephen King book, but this is our favourite by majority. The Shining, Pet Sematary, and The Outsider all deserve honorable mentions. If you have time (we think you might), take a look at The Stand. It’s over 1,000 pages, and each page is as compelling as the next.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

Released in 2003, Mark Haddon’s novel is part murder mystery, part family drama which revolves around young protagonist Christopher, who has Aspergers Syndrome. Life through Christopher’s eyes is voiced compassionately and without reservation. The story is nuanced, and its first-person perspective shows just how confusing life is (with or without Aspergers).

Heartfelt, gripping, and uniquely funny, the book presents Christopher’s world in a way that we all relate to. His involvement in even the most bizarre murder investigation makes us love him even more. If you’re looking to escape the mundanity of lockdown with a touching yet funny story, check out The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

  1. You may even learn a thing or two about maths, as Christopher is an actual wizard at solving complex equations.

6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Gail Honeyman’s debut novel of 2017 tells the lonely story of a Glasgow-based finance clerk who, upon falling in love with a singer, feels that her fate relies on having that singer love her back. If the loneliness of self-isolation is getting you down, there may be some consolation in reading this book. It’s a story of tragic loneliness that everyone can relate to (you can’t help but empathise with the social misfit at the heart of the story). 

The protagonist of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has an incredibly traumatic past, and yet the novel is redeemed from complete misery by a sharp wit and an intelligent sense of humour. 

Again, if you’re feeling lonely then this may be the one for you.

7. The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster

A modern classic in the detective novel tradition, The New York Trilogy (1987) sets a darkly dramatic scene in and around the crime-ridden streets of New York. The ‘Big Apple’, as we know it, is riddled with corruption and a story lurks behind every alleyway. The story told by Auster will baffle and bewilder – we guarantee you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time. 

It’s not a particularly long book, consisting of three stories that are brief but substantial in themselves. If you’re partial to a ‘whodunnit’ but don’t want too big a read, then The New York Trilogy is perfect. 

8. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you’ve not read the book, or seen the film, you’re probably familiar with feeling left out of conversations. Take the lockdown as an opportunity to read it – don’t think of it as peer pressure, just be happy that you’ll no longer be met with suspicion when you tell people you’ve never read it!

In all seriousness, The Great Gatsby is a great read. For all its grandeur and glamour, it’s an intimate look at human nature, excess, and unrequited love. And, even if you don’t like it, you can still join in on all those conversations either way!

9. Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty

Published in 2018, Nine Perfect Strangers sees writer Liane Moriarty perfect her craft and, as a result, she’s been heralded as part of the new guard of young writers in the UK. The story is tightly-wound with more than a few twists and turns, and it centres around nine frazzled city slickers who turn to an island paradise for a much-needed rest. 

What they find on that island paradise, however, is far from restful. This sinister little tale resonates with fans of modern fiction as well as those with more macabre tastes. Here’s a bit of background info: Liane Moriarty’s book Big Little Lies is the inspo for the hit TV show of the same name (you’ve probably heard of it!).  

For a story of intrigue and eerie goings on, take a look at Nine Perfect Strangers. For a health and wellness resort, there’s definitely something strange going on at Tranquillum House…

10. How Not To Be A Boy, by Robert Webb

When he’s not playing everyone’s favourite manchild in Peep Show, Robert Webb is an excellent writer and comedian in his own right. How Not To Be A Boy is a non-fiction work focusing on Webb’s upbringing and his battle with the idea of masculinity presented by his father and, in general, society at the time. 

Lincoln in the 1980s was not a particularly flexible or inclusive place when it came to gender norms, and it’s something that Webb challenged throughout his youth. The writer strikes a balance between laugh-out-loud humour and subtle sentimentality, and the book almost reads like a manual to navigating the stiff upper lip of British masculinity. If this sounds up your street, we definitely recommend it.

Here are some articles for extra lockdown inspiration…

Get your reading glasses on…

The above list should see you through lockdown, and they’ll prevent you from the aforementioned cabin fever. Your boredom will alleviate, but all this reading may take a toll on your peepers. If you’re in need of a fresh pair of reading glasses, we have a vast selection of specs and you’re sure to find something no matter your prescription. 

You can even Try Before You Buy and have four pairs sent straight to your home. We’re taking all the proper precautions regarding COVID-19, so you’ve nothing to worry about there. In the meantime, keep an eye on our blog as it’s regularly updated with fresh content. 

Happy reading!