Settling into a comfortable chair and curling up with a good book is something many of us are trying to do more of, now that we're all in the land of social distancing. Whether it's an hour in bed in the morning when you might have been commuting, or simply taking advantage of early nights in to catch up on a book you've been meaning to read - it's one of the many perks of possibly finding yourself with time on your hands.
We asked friends of D&B to share the books they're reading this month that they'd most recommend - and we loved their choices. Enjoy reading their selections and recommendations below.
P.s. Don't forget - if you're thinking of buying a new book you don't have to use Amazon. You can use Hive to order from your nearest independent bookseller - and they'll almost certainly really appreciate your purchase at the moment.
1. How To Fail by Elizabeth Day
Based on the premise that learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better, this brilliant book expertly weaves together Elizabeth’s reflections on what her own failings have taught her, with anecdotes from various guests on the podcast of the same name (also highly recommended). Elizabeth is funny, wise, honest and astute in her observations. Hearing her recalling her failures from a range of areas including her twenties, sport, friendships, marriage and ‘being Gwyneth Paltrow’, among other things, makes you feel like you're having a heartfelt conversation with a close friend who has been through the same experiences. You will finish each chapter feeling uplifted, comforted and full of hope!
2. Circe by Madeline Miller
If you're in need of an escape from reality, I would highly recommend Madeline Miller's Circe. Chronicling the life of Circe, a lesser goddess who stands as an outsider from her powerful but cruel family, we follow her through banishment, rivalry and love, all with a touch of witchcraft. Circe grows in confidence and power as the story unfolds, and you're right there on the journey with her. This is patchwork of ancient myths, with Madeline Miller reworking many well-known tales and adding a feminist edge by telling the story from the female perspective. As a result, it's very refreshing read - beautifully written and vivid storytelling. The perfect book to help you get away from it all, without leaving your sofa.
3. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
So, admittedly, I’m the type of person who normally spends time lying on the ground, eyes-skywards, gazing through the foliage of sycamores, or wandering about pointing at oaks that might be good for woodpeckers. In short, I’m kind of into trees.
But Peter Wohlleben, the author of this excellent book, is a forester- turned-author, which means that, unlike me, he really knows what he’s on about. Drawing on his experiences of growing trees commercially and caring for woodlands, his combination of expertise and enthusiasm makes this exploration of trees and their ‘social networks’ accessible and, frankly, adorable. It turns out that trees co-operate, helping each other to grow and survive in tough times. Quite an apt read for our moment of mutual aid, and feels a bit like a walk in the woods from your armchair.
4. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
If you’re looking for a compelling read with a good bout of political and social stimulus then American Dirt is perfect. It caused some controversy at my book club but is it a worthy book if it doesn't cause some controversy?
A page turner: the free flowing prose is easy to read. Cummins interweaves the narrative voices of multiple characters whilst traversing the strength of love, the horrors of heartbreak and the trauma of grief and the American migrant experience. Set against the backdrop of a very real, long standing and present crisis of migration and immigration in America; the journey of Lydia and Luca as they flee Mexico on the infamous ‘La Bestia’ will probably take you on your own journey of consideration of the migrant experience (and how to present that narrative, that will continue after you close the book). It’s dramatic and high pace and I wouldn’t recommend it without hesitation but if you’re wanting to be carried away then give American Dirt a go.
5. Expectation by Anna Hope
Late last year I read Expectation and I enjoyed it so much that it's stayed in my thoughts well into this year. I think this is partly, I have to admit, because it is set physically in a space I know so well - London Fields and the surrounding area, which I've lived in for over 10 years - and because the time frame so neatly mirrors my own - this is the space and place in which I also spent my 20s, fell in love, built some of my most important female friendships, started my career and more. But I think this is not just a coincidence of setting and geography. Anna Hope's brilliant writing creates characters that feel so honest and raw and familiar, that anyone reading this book could feel as though she is talking about people they know intimately well.
Expectation traces three friends and their lives over ten years covering ambition and failure, heartbreak and grief, betrayal, motherhood, feminism and more. In equal parts poignant and funny, this is a beautiful exploration of female friendships and its oscillations. I can't recommend it enough. In fact, I might read it again this weekend.