In these strange, unsettling times we’re enjoying the escapism of a good book.
We’ve asked our friends to share what they’re been reading during lockdown.
Join the Kate Sylvester Book Club and tell us what are you reading during lockdown?
Martha Gellhorn, A Life by Caroline Moorehead
Feel Free by Zadie Smith
"I am a slow reader and the format in short stories is perfect. It covers a range of topics from politics to pop culture to Beyoncé."
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
"A great easy read, I highly recommend!"
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
“I'm fascinated by true crime, and find the methodical trajectory of these books oddly calming. This excellent, in-depth, and personal book about The Golden State Killer was published posthumously, and Michelle (who coined the name) never got to see the fruits of her work - a suspect was finally arrested two months after it was published.”
Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
“It was simple, yet magical and completely heart breaking.”
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.
"I have heard so many amazing things about this book and I’m not very far in, but it is so beautifully written. I am hooked already!"
Nora Ephron Essays
“Her books Crazy Salad and Wallflower at the Orgy (a metaphor for journalism objectivity, not about being shy at orgies) are comfort reads for me. I tend to return to her work in moments of stress, or when I’m not feeling particularly creative. She was a genius, and very funny!”
The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck
"M Scott Peck is a psychiatrist that writes on problem solving, love, dependency, laziness, religion and grace. He uses cases he has come across through his years, giving us a detailed understanding of how the mind works."
My Year of Rest & Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
“It’s sort of darkly comic and about a woman around my own age living in New York off her dead parents inheritance. She gets fired from her job and take a year to “sleep” everything away- I’ve not finished it yet and I don’t want to spoil it but god it’s witty and GOOD.”
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
"The books on highest rotation in our house are The Tiger Who Came to Tea and The Very Hungry Caterpillar 😋, but I have found the odd moment to start reading An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. It's about what happens to a married couple when the husband goes to prison for a crime he didn't commit. I'm about three chapters in and really loving it so far."
Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
"I've been lovely distracting myself with 'Lady in Waiting' by Anne Glenconner over the lockdown period.
In her 20s, Anne Glenconner was a maid of honour to queen Elizabeth and then was made a royal servant (personal assistant) to Princes Margaret. She socialised with a very stylish, creative friends from royal circles and married a charismatic man who loved to host elaborate weekend outings, events and parties.
By watching The Crown's latest series, we saw Princess Margaret was quite naughty and fun, and loved escaping to Mustique, a private island in the Caribbean. Anne Glenconner and her husband were the couple to introduce Margaret to the island and helped build her hideaway over the years which sounds so dreamy and once set up, hosted many parties on the island with the likes of Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
This book gives you candid, behind the scenes stories about various personalities surrounding the royal family - and done in a very non pretentious way."
Strangers Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse by Shane Burcaw
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
I’m reading The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, it was a gift from one of my clients. It's a sort of soft and sad story about two siblings with an obsessive attachment to their childhood home. The Dutch House becomes an emblem of their loss, and a monument to a life never fully lived. Like I said, it's sad but it is also gentle and I appreciate that right now.
Ola by Albert Wendt + Clothes, and Other Things That Matter by Alexandra Schulman
I have two books on the go right now. One is old - Ola by one of my favourite authors Albert Wendt. The second is new - Clothes, and Other Things That Matter by former British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Schulman. I was reluctant to read a book about fashion, but realised it's the perfect antidote to news headlines at the moment, and makes you understand her a little better outside the politics of the magazine world.
Alexandra writes about her relationship with clothes, how certain items over the years are imbued with so many vivid memories and emotions. That kind of relationship with what we wear is hopefully how we will slow down and think about what we buy post-pandemic. It's stories like this that can provide some comforting nostalgia during anxious times.
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
I've been re-reading I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. I have mixed feelings about this book, yet I keep coming back to it; It makes me squirm and reminds me of every crazed decision I've ever made in love (or lust)-I guess that's also the beauty of it.
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while and now felt like the perfect time. A blend of memoir and artist biography, Laing looks to art to help navigate her way through a period of extreme loneliness she was experiencing in New York City. Reading about David Wojnarowicz, the Chelsea piers and the Aids crisis in the 1980s was especially moving. To me, some parts of the book are much stronger than others, but the last few paragraphs made me weepy and is a beautiful, uplifting reminder of the power of art, especially in times of crisis:
“There are so many things that art can’t do. It can’t bring the dead back to life, it can’t mend arguments between friends, or cure AIDS, or halt the pace of climate change. All the same, it does have some extraordinary functions, some odd negotiating ability between people, including people who never meet and yet who infiltrate and enrich each other's lives. It does have a capacity to create intimacy; it does have a way of healing wounds, and better yet of making it apparent that not all wounds need healing and not all scars are ugly.”