Have you been watching a lot of TV lately? You're not alone. But now that lockdown's easing and we're allowed back out to the parks and beaches (social distancing all the way, of course), it's an excellent time to get our noses back into a good book.
In this list, we've picked 21 brilliant reads that will help you take your mind off all your current stresses. From entertaining works of fiction to sources of self-help and learning, these top-quality tomes are just the ticket.
What's more, you'll notice that this is an Amazon-free zone. Click through on the links below, and you'll instead be supporting independents like Hive.co.uk, Blackwell's and Wordery with your hard-earned cash.
1. You Are an Artist, by Sarah Urist Green
In You Are an Artist, artists from around the world share their creative techniques and give you exercises to inspire you to make your own art. Curator Sarah Urist Green brings together more than 50 assignments gathered from some of the most innovative creators working today, including Sonya Clark, Michelle Grabner, The Guerrilla Girls, Fritz Haeg, Dread Scott and Alec Soth.
2. Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman
Human beings, we're taught, are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest. Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. The instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust, has an evolutionary basis going right back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. Author Bregman shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think, and act as the foundation for achieving true change.
3. Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the 20th century to the start of the 21st, this novel follows a cast of 12 characters on their personal journeys. They're each looking for something: a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope.
4. Tender: The Imperfect Art of Caring, by Penny Wincer
There are around 7 million people in the UK caring for loved ones, a number that continues to rise. In this timely book, Penny Wincer combines her own experiences as a carer with the experiences of others and offers tools and insights for navigating a situation most of us will face at some time.
5. The Next Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford
In this eye-opening book, a sequel to Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy, bestselling economist Tim Harford brings us more inventions that teach valuable lessons about the complex world economy we live in today. These range from the brick, blockchain and the bicycle to fire the factory and fundraising, and from solar PV and the pencil to the postage stamp.
6. Great Ted Talks: Creativity: Words of Wisdom from 100 Ted Speakers, by Tom May
Keep telling yourself you should watch more TED talks, but never get around to it? Then this book is for you. Written by Creative Boom's own Tom May, Great TED Talks: Creativity gathers the ideas presented by 100 TED speakers and condenses them into handy tips and practical suggestions for boosting your own creativity. Also included are URLs directing you to the TED website if you want to watch the whole talk in its entirety.
7. Rebel Ideas The Power of Diverse Thinking, by Matthew Syed
In the latest book by Matthew Syed, the bestselling author of Bounce and Black Box Thinking, he asks: Where do the best ideas come from? And how do we apply these ideas to the problems we face? Drawing on psychology, economics, anthropology and genetics, and takes lessons from a dazzling range of case studies, including the catastrophic intelligence failings of the CIA before 9/11, Syed offers a radical blueprint for creative problem-solving.
8. Ladies Can't Climb Ladders, by Jane Robinson
The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern Britain, opening the doors of the traditional professions to women and marking a social revolution. This celebration of 20th-century female pioneers focuses on the lives of pioneering women forging careers in medicine, law, academia, architecture, engineering and the church, and how society responded to them.
9. Do Pause You Are Not a to Do List, by Robert Poynton
Pausing is part of living and breathing. It allows you the space to notice new possibilities, question existing ways of acting or simply appreciate the life you are living. This book introduces the benefits of pauses, the forces that work against it, and teaches you practical ways to design more conscious pause in your life.
10. Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs, by Henry Carroll
Looking for photography tips, but don't want something overly techie? This book contains no graphs, no complicated diagrams and no camera club jargon. Instead, it inspires readers through iconic images and playful copy, packed with hands-on tips for capturing better images.
11. The Salt Path, by Raynor Winn
Just days after Raynor learns that her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away, and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they decide to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. An honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world.
12. The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, by Nan Shepherd
Nan Shepherd spent a lifetime marvelling at the Cairngorms; her obsession led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains, and our broader relationship with the wild world around us. Composed during the Second World War, this manuscript lay untouched for more than 30 years before finally being published. The Guardian has since described it as 'The finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain'.
13. The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times, by Paul Anthony Jones
The Cabinet of Calm is designed to soothe your soul and ease your mind. The idea is that you pick it up whenever you need a moment of serenity. Just select the emotion listed that reflects whatever you're feeling and you're offered a matching linguistic remedy: 51 soothing words for troubled times.
14. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Basic Art Series 2.0, by Jacob Baal-Teshuva
The work of the artist couple Christo (born 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009) is difficult to describe, much less categorise. Essentially, it is a hybrid of art, urban planning, architecture, and engineering, but above all, an aesthetic uniquely their own: surreal and ethereal. This compact book spans the complete career of the couple who were born on the very same day, met in Paris, fell in love, and became a creative team like no other.
15. The Beauty of Everyday Things, by Muneyoshi Yanagi
By their very definition, we don't often think about commonplace objects. But as Muneyoshi Yanagi points out here, these objects are our constant companions in life. As such, they should be made with care and built to last, treated with respect and even affection. These essays call for us to deepen and transform our relationship with the objects that surround us.
16. Ways of Seeing, by John Berger
Based on the BBC television series, John Berger's Ways of Seeing is a unique look at the way we view art. First published in 1972, it has never dated and remains a must-read for every creative. It may well change the whole way you look at pictures forever.
17. Black and British A Forgotten History, by David Olusoga
In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean. Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan' blackamoors' and the global slave-trading empire, the World Wars and right up to the present day.
18. The Plague, by Albert Camus
In this classic 1947 novel, the townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr Rieux, resist the terror.
19. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
This Booker Prize-winning novel centres on two identical twin sisters. After growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past.
20. It's Not All Downhill from Here: A Novel, by Terry McMillan
This is another excellent novel by Terry McMillan, the bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale. On the eve of her 68th birthday, Loretha Curry has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise. She's determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of ageing wrong: it's not all downhill from here. But when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down, Loretha will have to summon all her strength, resourcefulness, and determination.
21. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie just can't cut a break. Stuck between a boss who doesn't seem to see her, a family who don't seem to listen (if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her, it's no wonder she's struggling. This novel is perfect for fans of Dolly Alderton, Sally Rooney, Diana Evans and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.