5 new books to read in lockdown

5 New Books To Read In Lockdown
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By Prudence Wade, PA

From fictional pandemics to searing takes on social media, these new books capture the 2021 zeitgeist…


1. Last One At The Party by Bethany Clift is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £12.99 (€14.83). Available now


It’s November 2023 and the human race has been wiped out by a deadly virus — named 6DM after the ‘six days maximum’ you can survive once infected. Yet one woman is alive, alone in a world of burning cities and corpses.

She is not your typical survivalist hero though, and her initial reaction is to hole up in a luxury hotel, ransack Harrods and snort cocaine. In the opening note, Bethany Clift acknowledges her novel was written before the current pandemic swept the globe, with final edits made as the UK first went into lockdown.


However, cleverly re-edited with references to Covid-19, this apocalyptic vision is utterly chilling, making for a debut novel that holds its own in the dystopian genre. Last One At The Party is brilliant and creepy, yet surprisingly funny and feminist. It also races towards a stunning conclusion.

(Review by Megan Baynes)

2. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson is published in hardback by Viking, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99). Available now


Caleb Azumah Nelson’s writing in Open Water is so accomplished it’s hard to believe it comes from a debut author – and a 26-year-old at that. It’s told from the perspective of a young British Ghanaian man living in London, who is finding his way as a photographer.

Ostensibly a love story, he falls for his friend’s girlfriend – when she becomes single they grow close, and their relationship blossoms. There are snippets of joy, but Azumah Nelson also explores the trauma that can come with living in a black body, and tackles mental health, racial profiling and love in a way that’s really quite poetic.

While the writing may feel a touch too experimental for some readers, it’s a raw and unvarnished look at what it means to be black and British.


(Review by Prudence Wade)

3. Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler is published in hardback by Fourth Estate, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99). Available now

As the power shifts in the US from President Trump to President Biden, Lauren Oyler’s fantasy, Fake Accounts, takes a fictional look at the period of time from Trump’s inauguration. A usually honourable unnamed young woman snoops on her boyfriend Felix’s phone, and discovers he has a secret online life peddling conspiracy theories.

Felix isn’t exactly the love of her life, but then she hears he’s been killed in an accident. In a knee-jerk reaction she leaves her job and the USA, and heads for Berlin to step into Felix’s world. While the concept is interesting, the long-form essay style – where long periods of story don’t seem to go anywhere – can be frustrating. The fake news raised early on doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves either; instead, this is more of a tour of the millennial online world.

(Review by Rachel Howdle)


4. The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness by Mark Solms is published in hardback by Profile Books, priced £20 (ebook £14.63). Available now

The Hidden Spring is a tough one to tackle. Although author and scientist Mark Solms does attempt to explain his new theory of consciousness in an accessible way, the lengthy journey from the dawn of neuropsychology and psychology to the cutting edge of contemporary neuroscience requires a very careful and considered reading – and the occasional re-reading.

The crux of Solms’ take on consciousness is to consider its connection with emotion and feelings, but it’s when he gets on to exploring the future of the artificial intelligence industry and how exciting and troubling it has the potential to be, that things get particularly intriguing.

The book raises many interesting questions that make you rethink your own subjective experience – but it’s definitely a workout for the brain.

(Review by Georgie Grouse)

Children’s book of the week

5. Me, My Dad And The End Of The Rainbow by Benjamin Dean, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, is published in paperback by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK, priced £7.99 (ebook £5.99). Available now

Benjamin Dean’s debut is nothing short of a delight. For 12-year-old Archie, life is turned upside down when his parents divorce and his dad comes out as gay.

Things feel a bit weird between Archie and his dad, so he tries to find out more by going to the Pride parade in London – not that he really knows what it is. What’s most touching is how little judgement Archie has – any big change in life is going to be tough to navigate, but he does so with curiosity and love.


It’s a colourful story full of plucky kids, brilliant drag queens, and families of all ethnicities and sexualities. Dean’s writing is fast-paced and easy to digest – Me, My Dad And The End Of The Rainbow is a must for kids and parents wanting to learn more about the diverse world around us.

(Review by Prudence Wade)


1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
2. Slough House by Mick Herron
3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
4. Girl A by Abigail Dean
5. A Bright Ray Of Darkness by Ethan Hawke
6. One August Night by Victoria Hislop
7. Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford
8. The Betrayals by Bridget Collins
9. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
10. The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
(Compiled by Waterstones)

1. A Promised Land by Obama, Barack
2. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
3. Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day by Captain Tom Moore
4. Guinness World Records 2021 by Guinness World Records
5. Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera
6. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given
7. Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ixta Belfrage
8. Pinch Of Nom Quick & Easy by Kay Featherstone & Kate Allinson
9. We Are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins
10. Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson
(Compiled by Waterstones)

1. The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths
2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
3. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
4. Orwell Collection by George Orwell
5. Bridgerton: The Duke And I by Julia Quinn
6. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
7. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
8. Atomic Habits by James Clear
9. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
10. The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
(Compiled by Audible)

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