Shelf Isolation

13 Books to Keep You Happy and Healthy During Lockdown

We read books for many reasons: to learn something about the world around us, to feel inspired or moved. In uncertain times, we turn to books for comfort and escape. So here are some of BookBar's picks to keep you happy and healthy these uncertain times.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

Isolated and friendless - except for her imposing mother, Eleanor Oliphant’s life is a lonely one, until an act of kindness makes her see that life can be more than just fine. This story of an outsider who finds her place in the world urges you to see the bright side of life.




by David Sedaris

Known for his laugh-out loud wit, I’d recommend any of David Sedaris’ essay collections, but his most recent book, Calypso, feels well placed for our lockdown scenario. Set around the beach house he shares with his partner, it explores the ways that families come together and fall apart with a rare transparency that accompanies the humour.


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The Salt Path

by Raynor Winn

A remarkable memoir about hope in the direst of situations, which turns a tragedy into an adventure. After losing their home and livelihood, Moth and Raynor discover that Moth is terminally ill. Bankrupt, homeless and in physical and emotional agony, the couple decide to walk England’s 630 mile south-west coastal footpath from Somerset to Dorset via Devon and Cornwall. The journey definitely isn’t an easy one, but what comes with it is cathartic and regenerative. Incredibly brave, moving and full of love, resilience and joy, this memoir will inspire you, post-lockdown, to slide on your walking boots in search of adventure - and also hope.


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I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

The ultimate comfort read, from its first line (‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’) the joys of domesticity and family abound in this classic novel about an eccentric family who live in a dilapidated house in the English countryside. With wonderful characters, romance and a beautiful coming-of-age story, I Capture the Castle has everything you could want in an escapist read.



Reasons to Stay Alive

by Matt Haig

Billed as ‘a book about making the most of your time on earth’, Reasons to Stay Alive is one of the most joyful and accessible books about mental health I’ve read. Following novelist Matt Haig’s experience with depression, it’s a genuinely funny and incredibly truthful insight into the dark spectre of depression, and how it is possible to not only get your life back from this illness but live it to its fullest.


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The Examined Life

by Stephen Grosz

Written by a leading psychotherapist, The Examined Life shares Stephen Grosz’s personal encounters between a psychoanalyst and his patients, revealing how the art of insight can shed light on the most difficult and overwhelming experiences. A moving book about the nature of humanity and our extraordinary power for healing.



The Poetry Pharmacy

by William Sieghart

I have found poetry to be immensely helpful during these strange times and this book the most consolatory collection of them all. It’s a book I love full of lots of different poems and beautifully insightful commentary that are prescribed for emotional ailments from heartbreak and bereavement to regret, lethargy and anxiety. There are some real gems here, including a poem by Seigfreid Sassoon, ‘Everyone Sang’, that feels like it was written for this very moment.

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A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles




by Hans Rosling

Rich in data, but also joy, Factfulness argues that when we remove our biases and look at facts, we can see the world in a more positive light. Written pre-Pandemic, the world has changed hugely since the book was published in 2018, but its lessons remain the same. A book that will offer comfort to even the most cynical and inspire the most ignorant.

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The Offing

by Benjamin Myers

‘Poetry is mankind’s way of saying we are not entirely alone in the world’ says the wonderfully vivacious Dulcie in Benjamin Myers’ uplifting novel The Offing, which is set along the beautifully realised crags and cliffs of the North Yorkshire coast. When Robert sets off on a rambling adventure by foot, he stumbles upon the home of eccentric Dulcie and finds himself drawn to her unconventional lifestyle and her love of poetry. It’s a warm, wise and lyrically told novel about the sea, love, friendship, nature and poetry.



Everything I Know About Love

by Dolly Alderton

This memoir of journalist and co-host of the podcast ‘The High Low’ is frank and funny. Charting the parties, dates, and follies of Dolly’s twenties - from her university days to her first job and the anticipation of turning thirty - this book is cringingly relatable, hilarious and beautifully wise. It’s a reminder of the value of friendship - and perhaps a warning to those who are already planning their post-isolation night out.

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Daisy Jones and the Six

by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reminiscent of the story of Fleetwood Mac and told through revelatory interviews with fictional band members, friends, and producers, Daisy Jones and the Six charts the rise and mysterious fall of the world’s most popular band. It’s full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but it also interrogates the unhappiness behind the glamour and the people behind the icons.



Notes from a Small Island

by Bill Bryson

There is much to be said for living room travel, and anything written by Bill Bryson is the perfect candidate for transporting you to new shores without even leaving your living room. In Notes From a Small Island, Bryson travels around the UK, uncovering the eccentricities of this island nation and the people who inhabit it. His witty observations about the cultures he visits will have you audibly chortling to yourself. Wherever you are in the world, Bryson is a superb travelling partner.




Sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest in the attic of Moscow’s Hotel Metropol, accused of being an unrepentant aristocrat at a Bolshevik trial, Count Alexander Rostov must adapt to his new life sans luxury. A Gentleman in Moscow is a charming novel about one moment in Russian history from the eyes of a man in a unique observational position - and in lockdown.