For the first few weeks of lockdown, we could barely pick up a book. With everything that was going on, we just didn’t seem to have the spare brain space to get invested in another world. And yet here we were with evenings at home stretching ahead for weeks to come. Finally, a chance to work our way through the reading pile on our bedside table and yet we had little desire to do so. And it turns out this problem wasn’t just ours. Lots of friends mentioned the same frustration – that they just couldn’t settle into a book after listening to the nightly doom and gloom of the ten o’clock news.
So for those of you with lockdown brain freeze, here are five books that will get you back on track and immersed between the covers once again. Page-turners, thrillers, absorbing funny tales and real life stories that will transport you away from Covid-anxiety without demanding too much of your shattered brain at the end of a long day.
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. If you have a Sally Rooney-shaped hole in your life, then Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times is a must. There has been much well-deserved hype around this book, touting it as the novel of the summer. Essentially a modern love story, Dolan’s brilliant, comic writing is deadpan bordering on caustic and her character’s are second to none. The pages will turn themselves and before you know it, you will have FINALLY read a book.
The Part-Time Job by P.D James Published this summer to celebrate what would have been PD James’ 100th birthday, this exceptional short story takes us into the mind of a man who has waited decades to exact his meticulously planned revenge on a school bully. This is a treat of a book from the ‘Queen of Crime” and at 48 pages long there really isn’t any excuse for not getting through this…
So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter Irreverent, racy, funny and thought-provoking. Out in paperback in July, So Lucky shot to the top of the charts when it was came out in the autumn. Dawn O’Porter’s straight-talking fourth novel is compulsively gripping and taps into the feeling that everyone is living their BEST LIFE – except you. She tackles this and other deep issues head-on and yet you will find yourself chuckling away as you devour this in one sitting.
Part of the Family by Charlotte Philby Domestic thriller meets espionage novel. Need I say more? This clever novel from notorious double agent Kim Philby’s granddaughter will have you up late at night, clutching the duvet with white knuckles. On the surface, Anna Witherall is a happily married mother, with an enviable job, perfect twin daughters and beautiful home. And yet beneath the veneer, lies a dark secret that threatens to destroy everything Anna has worked so hard to create. One thing becomes clear: to protect her daughters, she must betray them.
Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner For those looking instead to actually reduce their anxiety levels, this witty, extraordinary autobiography of Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting is out in paperback later this month. Anne Glenconner was a unique witness to royal history. Born at Holkham Hall, she was great friends with Princess Margaret and married to Lord Glenconner, owner of the Caribbean island of Mustique. In many ways her life was one of great privilege. And yet she lived in a gilded cage – heavy social expectation and tragedy lurked just beneath the surface. Her telling is generous and funny and courageous and you won’t want it end.
Clemmie Jackson-Stops runs Vellum Libraries, curating book collections and libraries for individuals and discerning businesses. Check out their Lockdown Libraries – five books, chosen to suit the reader’s taste, gift-wrapped and sent with a handwritten note.