Lockdown literary list
Need a little escapism - hell yeah! Check out Muddy Surrey's top 50 book recommends.
Losing yourself in a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Literature has that timeless ability to transport you to a different world – and more than ever, right now we are looking for a little escapism.
I’m a former contributing book reviewer at the Indy and lover of books, but it’s the one thing I never have enough time for. so during lockdown I plan to catch up on some of the great books I never got round to reading and re-visit some of my favourites.
From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s decadent parties in the Roaring 20s to Hilary Mantel’s Tudor-set Wolf Hall trilogy, here’s my choice of books to add to your literary list during lockdown.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan set against a backdrop of lavish Long Island parties during the glamorous 1920s Jazz era.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Published in 1960, and winning Harper Lee a Pulizer Prize the following year, it’s now regarded as a literary masterpiece. The story follows the Finch family during the Depression years in a small Alabama town.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Acclaimed as the world’s greatest novel, this is Tolstoy’s tale of passion and self discovery. It’s centred around sophisticated Anna who abandons her role as the wife of Karenin for a passionate affair with Count Vronsky.
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Narrator Joseph Marlow is on board a boat, Nellie, sailing down the River Thames and recounts the story of his journey up the Congo River.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
The bestselling book by Columbian author Gabriel García Márquez that tells the story of the Buendia family, and the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love.
Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling
With seven chunky books in the series, plus a prequel, this series about the orphaned boy wizard, and his friends, is a great one to really get stuck in to. It’s also a great one to read with older children.
The Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante
This four book series by the Italian author are among her most well-know. They include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and Story of the Lost Child and follow the lives of two friends.
Wolf Hall trilogy, Hilary Mantel
With the recent release of The Mirror and the Light the third book in series charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell the powerful minister in the court of King Henry VIII. It covers the period after the death of Anne Boleyn.
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
A trilogy of fantasy novels consisting of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass which follows two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes.
Flowers in the Attic, Virginia Andrews
Remember this cult series? If not, you’re in for a treat. There are five books that follow the Dollanganger kids who, after the unexpected death of their father, are coerced to stay hidden in the attic of their grandmother.
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Set in New England, this 1992 novel tells the story of six classics students at Hampden College, a small, elite Vermont college based upon Bennington College, where Tartt was a student between 1982 and 1986.
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present, this book, and the two that follow, are equal part adventure, romance and suspense. You’ll have them read in a matter of days.
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
Dark and powerful, this is the heartbreaking story of four friends. It’s not an easy read, and it addresses some difficult subjects, but you won’t be able to put it down.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
This best-selling 2003 novel is about two Afghan friends, Amir and Hassan, and an event that changes them both. It hooks you from the start and will keep you turning the pages.
My Friend Leonard, James Frey
Based on the life of the author, and following on from his first book A Million Little Pieces, it’s about Frey’s close friendship with a Mafia boss called Leonard. It’s raw, emotional, inspirational and heartbreaking.
BOOKS TO MAKE YOU SMILE
City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert’s most recent offering – she of Eat, Pray, Love, which is also worth a read if you haven’t already – takes us to New York City in the 1940s and a world of glamour, sex and adventure.
F*cked at 40: Life Beyond Suburbia, Monogamy and Stretch Marks, Tova Leigh
Tova Leigh explores what the hell you are supposed to do when you find yourself living a life you don’t remember signing up for. It’s funny, raw and empowering.
How To Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.
Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
Fun, funny and then funnier still, this is the story of three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and their jaw-droppingly opulent and crazily wealthy lives. Expect high level gossiping, bitching and backbiting.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Quirky, warm, uplifting and smart, Eleanor Oliphant is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan kookiness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.
Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
When America’s handsome and charismatic First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales this is what happens. It’s a romantic, tender, sexy and witty story – and one of 2019’s most loved books.
The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
A funny boy-meets-girl tale, with a twist. It centres around the life and intensely passionate love of Clare and Henry, who finds himself misplaced in time. It’s moving, feelgood and unforgettable.
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
The tale of an innocent young bride who finds her life blighted by the mystery surrounding the death of her husband’s previous wife. It’s beautifully written, gripping and haunting.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Perhaps the most haunting and tormented love story ever written. It’s the tale of the troubled orphan Heathcliff and his passionate but doomed love for Catherine Earnshaw.
Tipping The Velvet, Sarah Waters
A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance, Tipping the Velvet is set in England in the 1890s. It tells the story of a young woman named Nan who falls in love with a male impersonator, and follows her to London.
DARK AND DYSTOPIAN
The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh
An unsettling dark fantasy, The Water Cure is the story of three sisters who live on an abandoned island, having fled society to avoid a ‘sickness’ that seems mysteriously attached to men.
1984, George Orwell
Set in a totalitarian future society, a man, whose daily work is re-writing history, tries to rebel by falling in love. Haunting and frightening, it’s a classic of political and dystopian fiction.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Stark and thought-provoking, The Handmaid’s Tale is a gripping dystopian novel set in a futuristic America ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
An important classic in world literature, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is set in futuristic society that revolves around science and efficiency. It’s considered a masterpiece.
Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman
The first novel in a dark series, it’s set in a 21st Century Britain where dominant black Crosses treat the white Noughts as racial inferiors. It’s been adapted into a six-part series by the BBC.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
A New York Times bestseller and also a major film, Australian author Markus Zusak’s novel is set in Nazi Germany in 1939 and follows the story of Liesel who’s foster family hide a Jew in their basement.
Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín
Set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself – it’s a novel that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Winner of the 1997 Booker Prise, this is the tale of two fraternal twins who reunite as young adults, after family tensions have kept them apart for many years.
The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
The diary of a young girl who hides in a warehouse in the Netherlands in an attempt to escape the persecution of Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman
Set in Australia in 1918, it’s the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds. It’s moving and thought-provoking.
CRIME AND THRILLER
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
A unique and original story that will keep you turning the pages. It’s the story of a college physics professor who gets abducted one night by a masked man, injected with some science and wakes up in a world that is not his own.
The Naturalist, Andrew Mayne
The first of four in the series, The Naturalist is about Professor Theo Cray, a computational biologist who is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. It’s addictive and dramatic.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
Disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch’s niece from 40 years ago, helped by a pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander. Another page turner.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
An unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage that goes terribly, terribly wrong. It draws you in and keeps you reading. And like many a good suspenseful book, it’s been made into a film (starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike).
The Thief, Fuminori Nakamura
Fast-paced and elegant, The Thief follows a seasoned Japanese pickpocket who weaves in and out of Tokyo crowds, stealing wallets from strangers. Until one day his past catches up with him.
Educated, Tara Westover
The inspirational biography of a woman bought up in fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho without electricity, education and medical care who leaves home at 16 and eventually earns her a PhD from Cambridge University.
Becoming, Michelle Obama
The story of how Michelle Obama … how she ended up excelling at school and meeting an up-and-coming lawyer named Barack Obama. Becoming offers a deeply personal look at Obama’s life.
I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai
Shot in the head aged 15 for speaking out about the Taliban regime, this tells of Malala’s extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations. Inspiring and empowering.
I Know why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
As a Black woman Maya Angelou has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration – and she captures both powerfully and emotionally.
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much). Perfect if you’re looking for something light and funny.
The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
A beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature. It follows the Allbrights who start a new life in Alaska.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris
Based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. Terrible though the story is, it’s also one of hope, courage and love.
The Glass Hotel, Emily St John Mandel
A story of interconnected lives tangled up in two very different tragedies. A woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania – and a years earlier a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York.
Weather, Jenny Offill
From the best-selling author of Dept. of Speculation, a story about modern life right now, with all its anxieties about climate change. It’s funny, honest and tender. It’s been a New York Times best seller.
A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabelle Allende
Hailed as one of Allende’s finest novels yet, this is the story of a couple who flee the Spanish Civil War to Chile, only to later find themselves endangered once again under the Pinochet dictatorship.