In times of uncertainty, what better comfort than the company of a good book? Each week, NCW Programme Director Peggy Hughes will attempt to address your bibliotherapy needs with a handful of book recommendations.

Peggy HughesIf you’ve got a request – by genre, theme or anything else – send an email to with the subject line ‘Bibliotherapy’ and Peggy will do her best! You can also send your requests via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


‘Hi Peggy, I’m a massive theatre fan and need help filling my theatre heart since everything has closed. Do you have any recommendations (musical references are a bonus!)?’ – Becky

Book cover for 'Shadowplay' by Joseph O'ConnorHi Becky! My colleague Steph highly recommends Joseph O’Connor’s Shadowplay (Harvill Secker): a story within a story, slick with love, Dracula and greasepaint, and charting the relationship between Bram Stoker and leading theatre lights Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Read more

Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians (Faber & Faber) is an unforgettable depiction of a young Irish actor arriving at drama school in London at the heady heights of the 1990s, and McBride’s conjuring of the energy and swirl of putting on a show second only to the powerful sexual relationship at the heart of this book. Read more

David Nicholls’ Sweet Sorrow (Hodder & Stoughton) follows teenagers Charlie and Fran as they find first love over a summer production of Romeo & Juliet: funny and moving and sweet. Read more


Cooking and food

‘Would love any cooking/food books! Always on the lookout for more’ – Donna

Book cover for 'Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat'Donna, my friend Heather – who is a wonderful cook and whose book tastes I have no reason to doubt – swears by Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking: The Four Elements of Good Cooking (Canongate) by Samin Nosrat. Master these four elements! Master the kitchen! Maybe this is the book to get some results from the worst chef (me). And don’t just believe Heather, The Actual Nigella Lawson says ‘Quite simply an essential book … a masterpiece’. Read more

The Little Library Cookbook (Head of Zeus) by Kate Young is perfect for book lovers: Paddington Bear’s marmalade, a Neopolitan pizza with Elena Ferrante, afternoon tea at Manderley… 100 delicious recipes inspired by cookery writer Kate Young’s bookshelves. Read more



‘With all the sports missing, weekend sofa days aren’t nearly as fun. Could you recommend a good sports book?’ – Mr V

Book cover for 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' by Haruki MurakamiMr V, torn between recommending non-fiction or fiction, and unsure about your sport of choice, I’ll offer these two: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Vintage) by Haruki Murakami is part memoir, part ode to his twin passions of running and writing. Short but completely engrossing, full of insight and revelation, don’t be put off if you’re not into running – this is really about the passions that drive us and get us through. Read more

Cyclogeography (Notting Hill Editions) by Jon Day is a meditation on mysticism, racing and trying to get lost from the view of a bike courier. If you like cycling, this one is for you, but it traverses other byways including London, the politics of pedal labour, and the writers who knew a bit about cycling. Fascinating stuff! Read more


Dystopian adventure

‘Hi! Books have (as ever) been providing a wonderful opportunity for escapism, and also meshing with a slower pace of life these days. I’d love a recommendation for a dystopian adventure. A delightful series to delve into would be amazing. Thank you!’ – Katie

Book cover for 'Station Eleven' by Emily St John MandelOryx and Crake (Virago) – and the other two titles in this trilogy of dystopias, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam – by Margaret Atwood plunges us into a near-future that is both familiar and beyond our imagining. Plague (sorry), flood, genetic engineering, but also the triumph of love and community these novels, claims The New York Times Book Review, ‘light a fire from the fears of our age’. Ooft. Read more

Station Eleven (Picador) by Emily St John Mandel is brilliant, but, in building a world decimated in the wake of a fictional swine flu. It’s very near the bone…  Read more


Got a request?

In need of a personal bibliotherapy recommendation? Send your request – whether it’s by genre, theme or anything else – to with the subject line ‘Bibliotherapy’ and Peggy will do her best to help! You can also send your requests via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


Where can I buy?

Many of your favourite independent bookshops are continuing their business online or by phone and will deliver anywhere in the UK. Why not give them a shout?

Norwich – The Book Hive, Jarrold, Tombland Books, Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Abstract Sprockett, Norfolk Children’s Book Centre

London – Burley Fisher Books, Daunt Books, Brick Lane Bookshop, Pages of Hackney, Dulwich Books, Stoke Newington Bookshop, South Kensington Books, Newham Bookshop, Pages of Cheshire Street, The All Good Bookshop, Pickled Pepper Books, Owl Bookshop, Persephone Books

Edinburgh – Golden Hare Books, Typewronger Books

Wadhurst – Barnetts Books

York – Ken Spelman Books

Petersfield – The Petersfield Bookshop

Stockton-on-Tees – Drake the Bookshop

Arundel and Chichester – Kim’s Bookshop

Nottingham – Five Leaves Bookshop

Hexham, Northumberland – Cogito Books

Explore The Bookseller’s list of independent bookshops and the services they can offer