From Matthew McConaughey’s “bonkers” memoir, Greenlights, to Julia Quinn’s The Duke & I from the “hot” Bridgerton series, here are 9 books that Stylist team members are reading in lockdown right now.
It’s hard to know how to best pass the time in lockdown. Especially when the cold weather, gloomy skies and long nights are making it feel like one particularly long slog.
Most of us have already binged the whole Bridgerton series, listened to every episode of a favourite podcast and finished embroidering a masterpiece. And we’ve managed to race through those bedside table book piles.
But the great thing about books is that there are always so many more to sit back on the sofa with and devour. In fact, the problem often is knowing which hot new debut or beloved classic to dive into next.
So, if you’re looking for something new to order and read to help you get through lockdown, we thought we’d share the books that have been helping us to get through over the last couple of weeks.
From escapist novels set in the Regency era, to gripping memoirs and self-help books that get you thinking, here are the best recommendations from the Stylist team.
Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey
Lucy, SEO executive:
“I cannot get enough of celebrity memoirs, and Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights is one of the wildest and most fun I’ve read in a long time. Part autobiography, part philosophy on life, it’s funny, insightful, jaw-dropping at times and way more candid than you would expect from the Oscar-winning actor.
“It’s also packed to the brim with bonkers anecdotes, like the time he was arrested while playing the bongos naked in his home, alone, in the early hours of the morning, or when he prepared for a role by wrestling naked with cows on a ranch at midnight (there is a lot of nudity in this book).
“If you are looking for new year inspiration, it’s also filled with the ‘bumpersticker’ style affirmations McConaughey lives by and suggests we try for ourselves if we too want to get out of a rut and live a life less ordinary. After the year we’ve had, who wouldn’t want that?”
White Ivy, by Susie Yang
Helen, entertainment director:
“This recently released thriller was recommended to me by Stylist’s Moya Crockett and I thank her for it. It’s the story of Ivy, a Chinese-American girl living in a poor neighbourhood who doesn’t fit in with her elite American schoolmates – particularly Gideon, the privileged golden boy who she has a huge crush on.
“The novel, a remarkable debut from Yang, follows Ivy as she leaves her painful adolescence behind and does whatever it takes to get what, and who, she wants.
“It’s dark and twisted with an anti-heroine you can’t help but root for, offers a really fresh perspective on the experience of being an immigrant and, particularly importantly, for an hour every night it put the low-level feeling of a doom throbbing in my body in a holding pen while I gorged on it, totally engrossed.”
The Morning Gift, by Eva Ibbotson
Jaz, deputy digital editor:
“I’ve just finished reading The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson. It’s a book that I’ve had for ages that I rediscovered after visiting my mum over summer last year.
“Based on Ibbotson’s own experience as a refugee, the story follows a young woman who’s torn away from her home in Vienna during the Second World War. At its heart is a romance that blossoms against the odds, despite all of the pain and destruction in the world. And if that’s not a timelessly comforting story, I don’t know what is.”
The Good Liar, by Nicholas Searle
Megan, senior digital writer:
“Here’s a big, fat, juicy secret for you: there’s naff all to do in lockdown. This means I will read whatever you throw at me. A statement my boyfriend’s dad took quite literally and has given me what feels like six thousand books. It’s actually great because his taste is very different from my own, so this has been a good time to put down the love poetry and pick up crime thrillers, which I would never usually go near.
“Currently, I’m halfway through The Good Liar. The story follows a retired con artist called Roy who is struggling to let go of who he used to be: a dangerous, ruthless and arrogantly good looking young man who would double-cross anyone (including his friends) for the thrill of a win. Now, he’s frail and old but, although he has plenty of money in the bank, he’s adamant on pulling off one last job. His plan to do this is by feigning a relationship and swindling money from Betty, a fellow pensioner who is content to look past his grumpy moods and slobbiness for one last shot at companionship, or so she wants him to think…
“The book is good. It’s fast-moving with chapters that alternate time-lines so there’s plenty to get your head around, which as I’m feeling pretty stuck and stagnant right now, is probably just what I need.”
Buy The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle at Bookshop.org, £8.36
The School of Life: An Emotional Education, by Alain de Botton and The School of Life
Meena, features editor:
“I’m a methodical person, someone who likes instruction, so it’s unsurprising that when we were herded back into our homes for a third national lockdown and life became more bewildering than ever, I reached for a handbook on how to handle it.
“Introduced by Alain de Botton and bringing together decades of research into the human condition, The School of Life does what it says on the tin – it’s an emotional education of the kind we were never taught in school, from chapters on how our childhood shapes our relationships to the myth of introverts versus extroverts.
“Through its smart, funny and digestible chapters I’ve come to find comfort and more than the occasional ‘aha’ moment. Ultimately though it’s reminded me that we’re all in this thing called life together, no matter how scary or lonely it can seem sometimes. And for that reason, I suggest you pick up a copy.”
Autumn, by Ali Smith
Chloe, fitness writer:
“I’ve just started Autumn by Ali Smith, the first book in her seasonal quarter. I wanted to dive in after seeing the hype over the last release of the series, but I also felt such a pull to the novels given that they are based on everyday experiences, conversations and relationships that right now, feel alien.
“The simple interactions between characters, such as a conversation the character Elisabeth and a man in a post office, are poignant reminder of a pre-lockdown life that we will hopefully get to re-live and never again take for granted.”
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
Hollie, digital writer:
“I’m using this time to catch up with the books I’ve been meaning to read for years, and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is one of them. Already a big fan of White Teeth and Swing Time, I knew this would be another genius work full of intricately beautiful prose, curious characters, painfully accurate social observations and very funny dialogue.
“It follows the lives of the Belsey family, who live, study and work at a liberal arts college in America. There are so many individual stories that it’s pointless attempting to write them all down here. But they include martial affairs, identity crises and personal wars. I’m only halfway through but each time I sit down to read a chapter, it’s like tuning into a high-brow soap opera.
“I’m taking my time with this one because I just love getting lost in Smith’s words and taking in every little thing she has to say.”
All About Love, by Bell Hooks
Meeka, social media assistant:
“As well as an audiobook I’m listening to on walks, I’m also reading All About Love. In the book, Bell explores the different definitions of love and the different types of love, learning how to dissect and reflect on the ways that you receive love and how that can have an effect on your emotional intelligence in adulthood.”
Bridgerton: The Duke & I, by Julia Quinn
Kayleigh, digital editor-at-large:
“After studying 18th and 19th literature as part of my degree (with a heavy emphasis on Brontë and Austen), I kind of thought I had read all the Regency romances out there. Or, at the very least, read all the ones worth reading. How wrong I was, eh?
“Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books (yes, the inspiration for the popular Netflix series) take all of the classic tropes we know and love from that bygone era – chaperoned ‘dates’ in the parlour, stolen conversations on the dancefloor, duelling pistols at dawn – and give them a thoroughly modern twist. By which I mean, of course, that they’re hot, crazy, and full of feisty women relishing in the carnal delights that come from bedding rakish aristocrats.
“Essentially, they make for a pleasant departure from the horrors of the real world. And, despite my bookshelf being crammed with all my tried-and-tested favourites (all of which fall into the high fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian categories), I can’t focus on anything else. I just want something light, easy, and heartening at the moment. And Bridgerton, being the Maltesers of the book world, ticks all of those bloody beautiful boxes, quite frankly.”
My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend, by Tracey Thorn
Steven, freelance sub-editor:
“I’m currently reading (a pre-release memoir) of musician and writer Tracey Thorn’s My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend. It’s about the mid-to-late 80s indie music scene (I’m really missing going to gigs) and the uplifting story of the friendship between Thorn and Lindy Morrison, the drummer in Australian band The Go-Betweens. From how they navigated the sexist music industry back then to their enduring friendship, it’s a perfect escape from right now.”
Images: various publishers
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…