10 absorbing books

You’re likely to have some extra time on your hands right now, so if you need an escape from self-isolation, here are some uplifting, heart-warming books aimed to help raise your spirits, give you hope and help you through difficult times.

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1. In The Crypt With A Candlestick by Daisy Waugh (Piatkus, published 13 Feb 2020)
Fans of P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie should bag this madcap comedy whodunnit from the novelist and member of a literary dynasty Daisy Waugh – daughter of Auberon and granddaughter of Evelyn. It almost takes the format of an entertaining Cluedo-style murder mystery weekend. The story sees an oddball, eccentric family group gather to try to revive an old country house, with a murder thrown in for good measure. Outrageous and over-the-top, a perfect antidote to all real-life craziness going on.

2. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb (Virago, published 17 March 2020)
This is a sparkling memoir about Jimmy Kimmel Live writer Bess Kalb’s grandmother in which she dispenses wise and wisecracking advice, albeit from beyond the grave. Kalb saved every voicemail message her grandmother – best friend and confidante – ever left until the day she died. This tribute shows the fierce love they shared along with happy memories, as the author paints a picture of this larger-than-life glamorous figure. It’s full of truths, devotion and hard-won experience.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Pan)
This year marks the 42nd anniversary of this comedy sci-fi cult classic which recently aired on BBC Radio 4 for the first time – 42 being the ‘answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything’. It has been a radio show, TV series, novel, stage play, comic book and film. Following the intergalactic (mis)adventures of Arthur Dent, the book has sold more than 15 million copies. To celebrate, special anniversary reissues of the five original volumes are being published. For old fans and new.

4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, published 31 March 2020)
Escape into the late 16th century with this bestselling author’s first historical novel, which focuses on Shakespeare’s lost son, Hamnet, who died at the age of 11. It becomes a heart-rending vigil when the boy and his twin sister, Judith, fall sick, but it also gives Anne Hathaway, Hamnet’s mother, Shakespeare’s wife, a shape and form that is both touching and provoking. It’s tender, moving and hopeful.

5. The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley (Bantam, published 4 February 2020)
There’s a huge buzz around this lead debut novel that was won in a hotly contested six-way auction, telling the story of six strangers drawn together by a notebook. It begins when a lonely octogenarian writes about his life in a notebook, then leaves it in a cafe. There it is found and read by the cafe owner, who in turn writes about her own anxieties. And so the story progresses. It’s a heartwarming, laughter-and-tears story about the value of friendships and the importance of reaching out to each other.

6. Pretending by Holly Bourne (Hodder & Stoughton, published 31 March 2020)
This hugely entertaining rom-com for the post #MeToo generation has already had huge praise from other leaders in the genre, including Marian Keyes and Dolly Alderton. It centres on April, working in a charity crisis centre for young women, and who is constantly disappointed in her dates. She begins using her dating app to pretend to be what she sees as every stereotypical man’s dream: sexy, laid-back, casual and problem free. The only snag is that she falls for the man she ensnares in her trap.

7. Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph, published 4 February 2020)
The top Irish writer who has entertained us for almost 25 years with such sparkling gems as Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married, This Charming Man and The Break, is still at the top of her game with her latest novel, which took her more than two-and-a-half years to complete. It’s a sharp, wry tale about a seemingly happy family who harbour a plethora of contemporary problems from overspending and debt, to bulimia, family clashes and complications facing blended families. Despite the traumas, you’ll whizz through it with a smile on your face.

8. The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben (Century, published 17 March 2020)
Thriller-lovers, who just want some adrenaline to lift their spirits, should escape with this riveting page-turner from a hugely popular author and screenwriter. Not only has he more than 70 million books in print worldwide, but he also recently brought us the hit TV series The Stranger and Safe on Netflix. It introduces readers to Wilde, a decorated former soldier who 30 years ago was found in remote woodland with no clue to how he got there or what had happened to him. Wilde teams up with his pal, hard-hitting celebrity lawyer Hester Crimstein, when a local girl goes missing. Watch out for more of these – and one day you may even see Wilde on TV.

9. Saving Missy by Beth Morrey (HarperCollins, published 20 January 2020)
Anyone who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine will spend a happy afternoon reading this heart-warming, optimistic novel about Missy Carmichael, a 79-year-old curmudgeonly, lonely, recently widowed woman. With a son and grandson living in Australia and a seemingly estranged daughter, things start to change when she meets some kind strangers in the park with whom she forms an unlikely friendship and then acquires a faithful dog, Bobby. Could her life soon turn around? This big-hearted story shows that it is possible to live the life you choose. It’s HarperCollins’s biggest debut for 2020.

10. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury Circus, published 31 December 2019)
This cracking, razor-sharp debut novel is already making waves on both sides of the Atlantic and marks Reid out as a sparkling new talent. It centres on an incident in which a young black woman, who works as a babysitter for a wealthy white family, is stopped at the supermarket for allegedly kidnapping the child that she is babysitting. The incident sets off a chain of events that opens a string of debates, tackling the themes of race, political correctness and privilege, with brilliant observation and wit.

What book have you really enjoyed recently?

– With PA.

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