What’s The Best Book You Read In Lockdown? Part Two
I asked readers to share their favourite reading material from the past five weeks, and after wading through hundreds of your submissions, I’ve collated some of the most common responses and included them below along with a couple of reader’s reviews for each one.
Consider this the final course of your literary lockdown meal.
Pine speaks to the business of living as a woman in the 21st century – its extraordinary pain and its extraordinary joy. Courageous, humane and uncompromising, she writes with radical honesty on birth and death, on the grief of infertility, on caring for her alcoholic father, on taboos around female bodies and female pain, on sexual violence and violence against the self.
Readers said: “Beautifully crafted short stories with piercing narratives. I ugly-cried.”
Inspired by her hugely popular podcast, How To Fail is Elizabeth Days brilliantly funny, painfully honest and insightful celebration of things going wrong.
Readers said: “It’s just one of those books that reminds you of how diverse and unpredictable (yet always okay) the human experience is. It’s incredibly reassuring – I think even more so when we’re in a period of time that feels so much like ‘life limbo’.”
Award-winning journalist Johann Hari suffered from depression since he was a child and started taking antidepressants when he was a teenager. He was told—like his entire generation—that his problem was caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain. As an adult, trained in the social sciences, he began to investigate this question—and he learned that almost everything we have been told about depression and anxiety is wrong.
Readers said: “An incredibly well-written and thoroughly researched look at what it means to be human, our innate need for psychosocial and emotional health, and where the world is going wrong. Such an enjoyable book – everyone should read this.”
Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone. Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling.
Readers said: “This is the third time I’ve read this book. The author used an ethnographic approach, following three different women over a number of years, exploring their emotions, desires and experiences in a way that was so raw, heartbreaking and true. You can’t help but see glimpses of yourself and women you know in each of them.”
“Three Women seemed to be a polarising read with mixed reviews, but I believe that the author wrote in a way that didn’t aim to please everyone. I was emotionally invested in the honesty, embarrassment, frustration and longing of the women she wrote about. It won’t resonate with everyone, but for those who it does – you will be absolutely captivated.”
After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Tiffy and Leon have never met but they’re about to share an apartment and, maybe, a bed. A joyful, quirky romantic comedy,The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.
Readers said: “This is a classic rom-com and such a joyful read.”
“This isn’t my usual style of book but I couldn’t put this gem down! It’s such an endearing and thought-provoking read.”
Hours after the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, Kaikōura-based doctor Chris Henry crawled through the burning CTV building to rescue those who were trapped. Six years later, his daughter Chessie interviews him in an attempt to understand the trauma that led her father to burnout, in the process unravelling stories and memories from her own remarkable family history.
Readers said: “Utterly incredible. My mum uses an ice-cream scale when rating things so, following in mum’s footsteps, I would have to say: five out of five ice-creams. I’m a Christchurch girl but I now live in Auckland and don’t visit home as often as I’d like. This book beautifully conveys that ever-lasting connection we have with the place we are born, the solidarity that is formed through shared experiences, and the resilience of those determined to never give up. I cried, but ultimately found great comfort.”
“An incredibly beautiful, emotive and intelligently written memoir about a very unique New Zealand family. Chessie’s writing is well beyond her years. I absolutely adored it and think so many other young woman will too.”
Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they claim to be a happy bunch, but under the surface, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much…
Readers said: “It’s just so normal. It’s a story about the dramas of family, connection, love and health. I loved the Irish setting and slang used throughout. Also, they all go on a family trip to Tuscany and it is magical.”
“All the character’s lives were so complicated and entangled, which I think is very similar to what real life is like. The ending made me very happy, it was almost the exact outcome I wanted for each character, they just developed and grew so much that they the deserved to be happy in whatever shape or form that was.”
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition.
Readers said: “A beautiful account of what it’s like to grow up and discover your place in the world. But it’s also about navigating feminism and friendships. A timeless read that feels so poignant for the modern woman.”
“This book had me swept up in the lives of its characters. It was entertaining, emotional, and presented such an interesting and complicated view on feminism, showing how much has changed since the second wave.”
Comedian, screenwriter & bestselling author returns with a blistering satire about a series of murders brings an old-school detective into the world of sex, politics. Ben Elton sends up everything from fake news culture to extreme gender politics, political sloganism, the power of the hashtag, and everything in between.
Readers said: “I love a satirical piece and this was a thought-provoking, wild-ride of a read that made me weep with laughter. It pushes you to think about the things we say to each other, public opinion, and the outrageous things people are willing to do to sway it. It’s set in the UK pre-second Brexit referendum and it pokes fun at the media campaigns surrounding it. I’d recommend this if you’re a politics nerd like me and need a laugh.”
In Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl and adopted by a well-to-do Dublin couple, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. Cyril will spend a lifetime coming to know his identity, his home, and his country.
Readers said: “This book is incredible. It follows the life of Cyril Avery from conception to old age, as he navigates life being gay in extremely conservative Ireland, and follow his journey to Amsterdam and NYC during the 1980s AIDS cris, and then back to a more modern Ireland as the country was approaching the legalization of gay marriage. This book somehow balances heartbreak with humour perfectly and is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ll be thinking about it for a very long time.”