Bibliotherapy: Weekly reading recommendations
NCW Programme Director Peggy Hughes addresses your bibliotherapy needs with a weekly list of book recommendations

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 [email protected] with the subject line ‘Bibliotherapy’ and Peggy will do her best! You can also send your requests via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Staying Alive, ed. Neil Astley (Bloodaxe)

'Staying Alive' anthology, edited by Neil Astley

Poems are lifeboats and so, in the present choppy waters, may I recommend a whole anthology of them? Bloodaxe’s anthemic Staying Alive is packed to the gills with poetry from all over the world, carefully curated to assist in matters pertaining to the human heart. A strong poem is not just for a crisis. Such a poem is there for all times, helping us face or embrace daily change and disruption. So dive in: Miłosz, Rilke, Bishop, Plath, Cummings, Rukeyser, and so many wonderful others, new and known, are here to shine a light for us.

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Weather, Jenny Offill (Granta)

'Weather' by Jenny OffillIf, in your choice of reading material, you would wish to look the present storm directly in the eye, you should look no further than Jenny Offill’s peerless Weather. A short sharp shock of a book, Offill’s highly anticipated follow on from her hugely acclaimed Dept. of Speculation doesn’t disappoint. Through our protagonist Lizzie Benson, librarian and accidental agony aunt, witness to ecological disaster and encroaching fascism, Offill forces us to ask ourselves what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls?

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Listen to Jenny Offill’s conversation with Joe Dunthorne on The Writing Life podcast


Figuring, Maria Popova (Canongate)

'Figuring' by Maria PopovaThose already familiar with Maria Popova’s Brainpickings will need very little persuasion to seek out Figuring. This, her first book, is a goldmine and a treasure trove, exploring the complexities, varieties, and contradictions of love, and the human search for truth, meaning, and transcendence, through the interwoven lives of several historical figures across four centuries. In so doing, it opens new universes in how we think about the measure of a good life and what it means to leave a lasting mark of betterment on an imperfect world. Stunning and stirring stuff.

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The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel (HarperCollins)

'The Mirror and the Light' by Hilary MantelIf ever a moment required a book as big as Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, it was surely the present one. At 912 pages long, this absolute thumper is sure to keep you occupied and your mind thrown into the mists of time as Cromwell (spoiler) finally meets his end. Propulsive, spiky, darkly comic and richly told, critics say it’s been the worth the wait. And of course, if you’ve yet to read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, there combined are 1,000 more pages of the good stuff to help you while away some time…

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Got a request?

In need of a personal bibliotherapy recommendation? Send your request – whether it’s by genre, theme or anything else – to [email protected] 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, Tombland Books, Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Abstract Sprockett

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

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

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

Are you an independent bookshop? Email [email protected] to be added to the list!

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