Reading lists

‘The book that got me through lockdown’, as chosen by our readers

From childhood favourites to epic classics, these are the books that provided our readers with comfort, solace and joy during the pandemic.

Image: Alicia Fernandes / Penguin

It's no exaggeration to say that reading has been a lifeline for many throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. With the world on pause, many of us found ourselves reading more than ever. Some of us sought comfort in childhood favourites. Others discovered new authors, quickly devouring their entire backlists. Many gravitated towards doorstopper classics, finally striking that 1,000-page epic from the to-be-read pile. But no matter what we were reading, the experience was the same; books provided us with solace, escapism, wisdom and joy in a time when this was otherwise in short supply.

We asked our readers on social media if there was a particular book that stood out to them from this period. Here’s what they said...

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (2020)

We said: Is there anything better than a book about a library? An instant New York Times bestseller, the latest from the author of Reasons to Stay Alive is a magical, uplifting tale of regret, hope and second chances. 

You said: Made me realise there’s no point thinking about the what ifs. Grab life by the horns and give it a good shake if it's not making you happy.


A History of Pictures by David Hockney and Martin Gayford (2016)

We said: David Hockney and art critic Martin Gayford explore the relationship between photography, painting and drawing in this gorgeously unique book. 

You said: A History of Pictures was pretty uplifting and made me put things into perspective, while remembering there was a world outside my house.


Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)

We said: Set in India, Siddhartha is the story of one young man's search for spiritual enlightenment after meeting the Buddha. Integrating Eastern and Western traditions, it's a wise and moving tale for troubled times.

You said: An oldie but a goodie \ud83d\udda4


The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley (2014)

We said: If you’re looking to get stuck into an epic book series, Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters has it all; love, loss, mythology, and a crumbling, sun-drenched mansion in Brazil.

You said: Easy reading. I lost myself completely in each book and was so disappointed when each ended. Now looking forward to the final book in the series, due out next month, I believe.

Gayda J on Facebook

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010)

We said: Queer icon Anne Lister became a household name after the BBC drama Gentleman Jack premiered in 2019. Written in code in the 19th century, her diaries detail her innermost thoughts on everything from sex, menstruation and money to relationships, politics and society.

You said: Reading Anne Lister’s diaries early in the pandemic helped. The minutiae of the day-to-day, the books she was reading, her studies, her interests, the women she was seeing, her aspirations—it helped to slow the days down for me and give them more of a rhythm.


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