Bibliotherapy: Weekly reading recommendations
Peggy Hughes gives her weekly book recommendations. This week features mythology, the sea and travel writing

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.

Travel writing

‘Hi Peggy, I’m a lover of travel and I’d love to know your top recommendations to make me feel like I’m jetting off all over the world instead of stuck inside!’ – Heather

Book cover for The Luminaries by Eleanor CattonDear Heather: great idea! As Emily Dickinson wrote, There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away! I’d recommend Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy (Eland Publishing Ltd). Now in her 80s, Dervla takes us on quite a wild adventure, from Cuba to Cameroon: not always the happy-go-lucky experience she had hoped for, this book charts a richer one for all that. Read more

Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries (Granta) will transport you in time and place: a dizzying and involving mystery set in New Zealand during the gold rush, it’ll certainly take your mind off being trapped inside. Read more



‘Mythology (Greek or others) and dystopia is my vibe: so far I’ve read Circe, American Gods, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and am currently reading Mythos. What would you recommend?’ – Nicky

Book cover for 'The Secret History' by Donna TarttNicky, I loved Circe too. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Penguin) might float your boat if you haven’t already read it – a crime/thriller/mystery and loose retelling of Dionysus and the Bacchanalia following the misadventure of six classics students and their professor. Read more

Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls (Penguin Randomhouse) retells the Siege of Troy, from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan Queen who is captured by the Greek army and forced to become a bed-slave to Achilles. Women, war, loss, courage: this is, not to put too fine a point on it, a banger. Read more


The sea

‘I adored your recent article in the National Centre for Writing email newsletter. Such a joyous thing! I wholeheartedly agree with you that poems are lifeboats for the soul. As in the beloved hymn:

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?”

My interests also lie in the sea and boats. I’d be most obliged if you could suggest some books and poems which would be a source of sustenance on these topics during these tumultuous times.’ – Rev. J.W. Seeger MBE

Book cover for 'Anthology of the Sea'Rev. Seeger, I’m glad you enjoyed the newsletter! I wonder if some of these poems on the theme of sea and boats might be a balm at this moment?

This beauty by Kathleen Jamie, titled ‘Poem‘. (‘Today the sea is indigo’)


I love this one by Vahni Capildeo, ‘Seastairway‘.

Lighthouse Keeping’ by Kay Ryan brings some comfort now, a reminder that the lighthouse keeper keeps a light for those left out.

And this lovely little Anthology of the Sea from The Emma Press has many sea-themed poems to admire.

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, 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

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

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