In times of unprecedented strangeness, it’s only natural that we cling to what we know will make us feel better. Books provide all manner of things – ideas, adventure and escape – but the cosy familiarity of a well-loved story can bring immeasurable comfort. Here, the Penguin.co.uk team share their favourites, in case you’re after a new, decidedly uplifting read.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983)
It takes a particular kind of humour to strike the right note in times of turmoil, but Ephron’s dry irreverence never fails to make me laugh – the tone is set straight from Heartburn’s opening line: 'The first day I didn’t think it was funny'. Her not-quite biographical story may, ostensibly, be about an unfaithful husband and the breakdown of a marriage, but packs a far more meaningful punch. To witness our heroine Rachel overcome heartbreak and betrayal to take life into her own hands – all narrated in Ephron’s deliciously confessional patter - proves invigorating and inspiring. Plus, the whole thing is entwined with recipes for simple, irresistible things such as 'four minute eggs' and Linguine alla cecca. Divine.
Chosen by Alice Vincent
Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay (1927)
In the early 20th Century, many newspapers’ Sunday editions came with gigantic, pull-out comic strip sections. Kids and adults alike would spread the ‘Sunday funnies’ out on the floor or table to immerse themselves in worlds that ranged from whimsical and otherworldly to more domestic and reflective of the times.
Among the best was Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, which depicted in gloriously colourful, Art Nouveau-influenced detail, the fantastical dreams of a young boy who, at the end of every strip, awakens upon falling out of bed. If you’re feeling blue, there’s nothing like McCay’s magnificent dreamscapes to whisk you away from this world and drop you somewhere transcendent.
Chosen by Stephen Carlick