The Walpole Daily Practice | Good reads for a lockdown weekend

Novels have always been a way to travel in someone else’s imagination, a magical portal into a world outside our own.

That opportunity to escape feels more important than ever now our horizons are limited to our own four walls, punctuated by a desultory trip to the local supermarket or jog around the park. But what kinds of books suit the lockdown the best – comfort reads for uncomfortable times, or high-brow stimulation to discipline a distracted mind? Walpole asked editors from Britain’s best luxury magazines and newspapers for their recommendations:

Alex Bilmes, Editor in Chief, Esquire

You’re talking to a man who just finished Vasily Grossman’s magnificent Life and Fate. (Yes!) I’d hesitate to describe it as a comfort read but actually I do think it’s valuable and instructive to remember that people have survived worse than this (Life and Fate describes Stalingrad and the Holocaust, both of which Grossman witnessed and reported on first hand) and also gone on to make great, compassionate, generous, courageous art from it. On the other hand, I’m also rereading Saul Bellow’s Herzog in which a spoilt, selfish middle-aged man moans and complains and kvetches as perhaps only a spoilt, selfish middle-aged man can (I wouldn’t know). It’s the funnier of the two, I’ll say that for it. Comforting? Not sure. Consoling? Absolutely.

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

Herzog by Saul Bellow

 

Lydia Slater, Acting Editor in Chief, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country

‘I have so many [comfort reads for uncomfortable times] but: Cold Comfort Farm; The Grand Sophy; The Pursuit of Love; Right Ho, Jeeves. And I’ve just been reading old pony books – Six Ponies by Josephine Pullein-Thompson. And someone recommended Heartburn by Nora Ephron which is fab too’

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Right Ho Jeeves by P.G.Wodehouse

Six Ponies by Josephine Pullein-Thompson

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

 

Lorraine Candy, Luxury Content Director, The Sunday Times and Editor in Chief, Style

‘I have loved Where’d You Go Bernadette, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a favourite of mine, plus Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout.’

Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

 

Gillian de Bono, Walpole board director and former Editor of the Financial Times’ How to Spend It

‘I’m midway through studies for an FT Non-Executive Director Diploma so at the moment most of my reading is about corporate governance – hardly comfort reading, though it can be very inspiring on the subject of transformative leadership. I’ve always preferred non-fiction, something that’s absorbing, expands my knowledge and encourages me to have different perspectives, like Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Although first published in 2011, it gives a lot of perspective on what we are going through now, and the sort of recalibration society needs for humans to find greater meaning and happiness in their lives.’

Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

 

Sasha Slater, Head of Magazines, The Telegraph

‘If highbrow, then Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov… the devil comes to Soviet Moscow and mayhem ensues. If a little less stretching, then The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer: she’s the ultimate role model when you’re managing a tricky situation. Or The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers for a claustrophobic, atmospheric fenland lockdown with Lord Peter Wimsey.’

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers

 

Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor, The Economist

I don’t really escape into comfort reads, but a quirky novel I’ve unexpectedly enjoyed recently is City of Thieves by David Benioff – not obvious that in a lockdown you’d choose to read a novel set in the siege of Leningrad, but it’s witty, perceptive and full of human spirit as well as being, ultimately, a love story.’

City of Thieves by David Benioff

 

Kate Reardon, Editor in Chief, Times Luxx

I emphatically recommend The Consequences of Love by Gavanndra Hodge. As one of the country’s leading journalists she is firmly a member of the Walpole community and the book takes place in all the glamorous London locations your members will be so familiar with. But to describe it only in relation to gloss and glamour is to sell it horribly short – this extraordinarily beautiful book will blow your socks off.

The Consequences of Love by Gavanndra Hodge