In honour of National Read-a-Book Day this Sunday 6th September, we asked our authors to recommend the best books they’d read during lockdown. This is what they told us:
Sue Koten, herbalist and author of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Giardia, says: ‘Company of Liars by Karen Maitland was very interesting as it was about a group of people travelling through the time of the plague.’
Frances Ive, health journalist and author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis says: ‘I’d like to recommend two because they were so good: The acclaimed Normal People, by Sally Rooney, which I read in three days before watching the TV series which was equally good.
‘Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – brilliantly written with outstanding description of the wildlife and swamps in N. Carolina (and has sold 5 million copies).’
Barry Sears PhD, research scientist specialising in inflammation and author most recently of The Resolution Zone says: ‘I read a lot of history and philosophy during these times to put things in perspective. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it usually rhymes. Ancient Roman history especially provides a sense of balance. That’s why I am rereading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I recommend co-reading a more recent book, Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum, as a companion book.
‘Philosophy (especially Roman Stoic philosophy) lets you make better choices with the current fate you are dealing with. A book that I can recommend is Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations by Jules Evans.’
Erica Crompton, independent journalist and author of The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity says: ‘My mood has been low during lockdown which means concentration is poor. So I read Paragon art books as they’re succinct and easy to read. The last one in the third week of lockdown was called The Life and Works of Constable. It made me notice and appreciate the trees on walks after reading. Next up, Dear Life – short stories by Alice Munro, brought for me as a birthday gift.
Professor Stephen Lawrie, Erica’s co-author, says: ‘I would say Fiction: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.
Associate Professor Antonina Mikocka-Walus, health psychologist and author of IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection, says: ‘Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow are my latest favourites.’
Jo Waters, health writer and author of What’s Up with Your Gut? says: ‘I read all 880 pages of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light during lockdown – it seemed topical too as there was talk of plagues and tyrannical leaders and civil unrest. It was a great book to hunker down with in dark days, but it reminded me that dark days pass – although not alas for Thomas Cromwell. I read it in eight weeks and can’t wait to reread it.’
Dr Raymond Perrin, osteopath, specialist in neuro-lymphatics and author of The Perrin Technique, about to be published in a greatly enlarged second edition says: ‘I managed to dab onto a wonderful collection of short stories by Stephen King, Bazaar of Bad Dreams, which has the usual Stephen King twists from the master story teller.’
‘And a sort of health book I enjoyed during the past few months was The Reality Slap by Dr Russ Harris to understand how ACT Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps people through life’s stresses and as a useful aid to helping some of my CFS/ME patients cope better with their illness.’
Hanna Purdy, nurse practitioner and author of Could it be Insulin Resistance? says: ‘I am hoping to read Dr Sarah Myhill’s Ecological Medicine next, about PK diet, sleep, exercise etc. It sounds similar to what I think about these things, so I am always very keen to learn more. I haven’t had time to read anything whilst finishing my own book, so I am only planning, but would like to name this book.’
Bridget Sheeran, independent midwife, homeopath, women’s health activist and author of colouring book Preparing for Birth, says: ‘I’ve been reading books that tell me how to do things and think A Taste of the Unexpected by Mark Diacono is brilliant – it tells one everything one would want in a holistic garden. And I’ve been revisiting Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions to make fermented foods. Otherwise the only reading I’ve been doing is for a course but I’ve found Interpersonal Psychotherapy by Scott Stuart and Michael Robertson fascinating and highly readable.’
Mary Jordan, author most recently of The ‘D’ Word, says: ‘I did enjoy The Infection Game by Sarah Myhill – everything she says is so sensible. I also really enjoyed Pale Rider by Laura Spinney about the Spanish Flu of 1918. I read it to convince myself that this would all pass as it did 100 years ago and was amazed to learn that the effect of hysteria caused by the media is unchanged.’
‘For escapism you cannot beat Jane Austen and I reread her novels and then enjoyed reading Jane and Me by her great niece, Caroline Jane Knight, about the last days of Chawton House (JA’s brother’s house) as a private residence.’
Sara Challice, teacher, motivational speaker and author of Who Cares? says: ‘I read two great books this summer for my Mindfulness Teacher Training course, both on health and wellbeing. They are Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra, which shows we have more freedom and power than we realise, and Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh, which will have something to offer you wherever you are on your spiritual journey.
‘I’ve also listened to Michael A. Singer’s The Surrender Experiment as an audiobook, about the author living a quiet life of meditation and solitude but agreeing to do what he was asked by others and how this helped him to evolve and grow… and turned into a huge business.’
Fleur Brown, author of Beat Chronic Disease, says: ‘The books I have most enjoyed reading during lockdown are: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, Circe by Madeline Miller, Love is Blind by William Boyd and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. If you want my favourite three, these are A Gentleman in Moscow, The Remains of the Day and Circe.
Caroline Freedman, specialist personal trainer and author of The Scoliosis Handbook of Safe and Effective Exercises Pre and Post Surgery, says: ‘I love reading and have always devoured books and any I have read during ‘Lockdown’ have had to really hold my attention. For a quick-dip-in-and-out book I’ve found Dr Sarah Myhill & Craig Robinson’s The Infection Game fascinating and has made me re-think about how I approach infections.
At The Pond is a bunch of essays by writers including Margaret Drabble and Deborah Moggach, describing their experiences of Hampstead Ladies’ Pond. I walk on The Heath most weekends with my two dogs Tillie and Oscar and have never dreamt of swimming in the freezing cold outside. The trauma of having to emerge myself in my school outdoor unheated pool at the start of every Summer Term in April probably has something to do with this. Nevertheless after reading these memoirs I am really tempted to have a dip ‘At The Pond’… once ‘Lockdown’ is truly over.
The book I loved reading during ‘Lockdown’ and was really quite upset when I finished it was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Every page was a pleasure to read. The story unfolded beautifully and the Hollywood glamour painted so well, I could see the words in colour. Each chapter was a surprise and I could not guess where the ending was going. I can usually work out how a novel will finish… not this one.