What to read if you are stuck at home


I’m a person of simple tastes – I just need coffee in the morning, a glass of Rosé at sundown, and a nice big pile of books to read and I’m pretty happy. Some chats with friends and family and a bit of light gardening are welcome additions.

I had a moment of panic yesterday morning when I got a notice from the library to say that the books I’d reserved were available to be picked up. Should I make an emergency dash to the library in case they closed their doors? I briefly considered this, but decided to take my chances on picking them up on Monday. I have a massive pile of books next to the bed, so I’m really not going to run out in the next six months. And there are always digital books. The library has advised that they will increase the number of digital books to better serve the needs of the community, which is great news.

We did an emergency dash to the supermarket yesterday to buy some fresh ginger, some curry powder, and some of the aforementioned Rosé. I don’t want to be stuck at home without the essentials.

But back to the topic at hand. What should we be reading in this surreal situation? I think there are three options.

Get into the groove with some dystopian fiction.

If you’re up for reading dystopian books, the number one pick for me would be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s about a swine flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population and a group of nomadic actors and musicians who survive and band tother to travel the countryside, bringing tiny glimmers of hope and culture to the remaining people. Despite the gloomy storyline, this is actually quite an uplifting book. It’s been adapted for television, so look out for it on your screens. But honestly, I think the writing is beautiful so I would try to read it first.

Another couple of books that come to mind are quite old, but worth seeking out if you haven’t read them. I can recommend Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953 (before I was born) but still resonates today. It’s well worth the effort of hunting it down. It should be in your library.

Alternatively, you could try some escapist thrillers.

I’ve got a penchant for Stella Rimington books. She writes books about spies (the type of stories that get made into TV series like Spooks). They are definitely page-turners and not especially memorable (sorry Stella) but well written and easy to consume. Other favourites are police procedurals. Try Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, which is also one of my all-time favourite movies.

I recently read Anne Cleve’s new book called The Long Call which I enjoyed very much and my son has offered to lend me Dervla McTiernan’s new book The Good Turn which I’m excited about. If you are planning the read this, I would definitely go back to the beginning of the series and read The Ruin first. They can be read out of order, but I prefer to read them in order of publication.

Lastly, you could read something uplifting!

One of the books that’s waiting for me at the library is The Joy of High Places by Patti Miller. This has been recommended by one of my sisters (both are avid readers) so I’m looking forward to diving into this one. Patti is an excellent writer and teaches memoir writing courses, so this one promises to be a good read.

Also on my TBR (to be read) list is a new book by Julia Baird, Australian journalist and broadcaster, called Phosphorescence. It’s comes out tomorrow, March 23 and is described as…

A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.  

Review from the ‘Readings’ website

It might be a good choice for the current situation.

Lastly, I just want to say that I hope you are all doing ok. I’m deeply aware that not all of you are seeing this crises as an opportunity to read more books. Many of you will be facing an uncertain future in terms of employment and even health outcomes so if that describes your situation, my heart goes out to you. I hope you keep well and keep your cool. I genuinely think that books can bring comfort and maybe just a few hours of distraction when things are getting too much.

If you have books you’d like to recommend, or just want to touch base, do feel free to send me a message via my contact page. I would love to hear from you and will definitely respond.


Marg XXX

12 thoughts on “What to read if you are stuck at home

  1. Thanks for your suggestions; I haven’t read any of the titles you recommend. I’m powering through The Dry (Jane Harper) which is easy to read and engaging and just finished The Testaments which was a bit too close to home in these post-apocalyptic days. Did you know Dervla McTiernan lives in Perth? I’ve never read any of her books so will give them a go. I enjoyed Big Sky too and agree it was a good holiday read. I think we need more entertainment/diversion than challenge at the moment.

    1. I think you’re probably right. We don’t need to worry about reading something literary at the moment. There’s enough to worry about without thinking that our reading choices somehow don’t come up to scratch.
      I only found out yesterday that Dervla McTiernan lives in Perth. Tom and I are big fans of her books. I listened to her first book as an audiobook and really enjoyed the Irish accents. They are good reads.

  2. I’m never happy being stuck inside for too long. I love getting out in the countryside, especially on the moors, fells and mountains. But I’ve been an avid reader ever since forever. So a very slight silver lining to this black cloud is that it will allow us all to work through our TBR pile of books and the backlog of ebooks on my Kindle – I’ve never been able to resist a good bargain from their “deals of the day” and regular sales. Albeit most of their choices are not to my taste there’s a gem listed from time to time. (Intrigued by Amazon’s understanding of “literary fiction” which seems to encompass romantic novels and formulaic thrillers)

    1. I just wanted to let you know that your comments have prompted me to go out for a walk this afternoon. The weather is lovely here in Australia, we are just going into Autumn.
      I agree that the description “literary fiction” is interpreted very broadly. I’ve just had a look at the ebook catalogue from the library and the choices are a bit limited. I’ve written down a few titles including The Dutch House which I understand is worth reading, but there’s a lot of rubbish. I suppose I shouldn’t describe them like that. Someone took the time to write these books, but as you say, they are often very formulaic and I get cross with myself for not being more discerning.

      1. I think getting out for a walk helps to clear the head and is good both for thinking and taking your mind off worries. And as a partner in a small consultancy and training business I’ve plenty of the latter at the moment!
        Over here the messages from our Government have been confused to say the least. We’re told that we should be exercising “social distancing” and keeping 2 metres apart. Going out for a walk is OK (even encouraged) but then people are being lambasted by the Government for doing that as some outdoor spaces have become busy or they go to rural areas as they might spread the virus to there. Good communication requires clarity and during this crisis that’s exactly not how our Government is framing it’s messages.
        Hope you are keeping well and coping with these uncertain times.

      2. I like an intelligent read – both fiction and non fiction – and usually have several books on the go, plus reading for professional development. But I also enjoy a well written detective story or even some science fiction or fantasy. A lighter read is sometimes what you need! But there are too many poor quality ones.
        I’ve read, and enjoyed, “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett. The Dutch House has had some good reviews. It’s not in my TBR pile which is rather large at the moment – although may reduce in the next few weeks!

      3. We are going well here. Some mixed messages from our government as well, which does make things hard. I’m going on long service leave at the end of next week so need to practice being at home anyway. What’s on the top of your TBR pile at the moment? I’d be interested to know what kind of reading people go to in these situations.

      4. Well we’re sort of in lock down at the moment, although I’m quite busy with some work related crisis management (working remotely) so not much chance for reading just yet,
        I’ve just started reading a history of Istanbul by Bettany Hughes. It’s a bit of a monster at just over 600 pages. I’m also part way into the 3rd volume of Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography. I’ll probably need something lighter to read so am looking through my TBR pile to decide which novel to make a start on.
        Take care and enjoy your reading. 🙂

  3. Was it me who recommended The Joy of High Places? Finished it recently (for night BC which is now postponed) and very much enjoyed, particularly the walking bits.
    Have also recently read the new Dervla McT book.
    I am almost finished reading a Kate Atkinson book Big Sky (Sat BC) – an easy read but made me laugh. A holiday read and appropriate as we are in Narooma. Will go home tomorrow but have had a great time including walking, swimming, making pots of tea & playing various word games with our hosts.
    I am also reading Leigh Sales book and have two other ebooks waiting – The Weekend and a new Joanna Trollope book.
    Hope you are ok.
    Talk soon.

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Yes is was you who recommended The Joy of High Places but unfortunately the library has closed (as of today) so I can’t pick it up. Should have gone on Friday when I had the chance!
      I can’t blame them, everyone needs to protect themselves as much as possible.
      I have Leigh Sales book as an Audible download so I might listen to that sometime soon. I like Joanna Trollope so will check that out. Not sure about The Weekend… have read mixed reviews.
      We are doing fine here. Only two weeks left at work so I will have plenty of time for book reading very soon. Let me know if you have any other favourites and keep well.

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