Reading Lists for Total Confinement

Health and Well-Being

Our bodies are affected by what we eat, the air we breathe, how much we move and the strength of our immune systems. When these things are in balance they have a positive effect on the mind.

When we are told to stay at home, whether that’s due to recovering from an ailment or like now, to protect us from one, we risk becoming out of balance, physically and mentally.

We are discovering alternative ways to continue activities in unique ways, whether learning, exercising, preventing boredom or coping with the effect of the over abundance of panic/fear inducing news stories out there.

Some are creating suggestions for the #StayAtHome period, so when Paula at Book Jotter in her Winding Up the Week post asked if anyone was creating therapeutic reading lists, I thought I might create a few, I have shared a few of these titles with people already this week, being worthy titles that might assist or entertain us during this crisis.

I believe that what we consume affects our state of mind and that applies to our reading material as much as food. In order to bring balance, we can refer to books that have a positive effect on the mind, that allow us to stay in a calm, neutral state, an antidote to the excess of material and media that triggers fear, panic and other states of disequilibrium.

So over the next few days, I’ll be making a few suggestions from books I’ve read, according to the following themes, which I’ll link back to this page:

Top 5 Spiritual Well-Being Reads

  • books that suggest how to move to a perspective that fosters calm, helps prevents trigger inducing states, moves us out of drama and protects us from negative energies. And how to have fun doing it.

Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads

  • since we can’t all go there, these books put you in nature and allow you to appreciate it, going to places you’ll probably never visit, bought alive and evoking the senses without ever getting bored.

Top 5 Uplifting Reads

– they are few and far between in my opinion, books that actually make you laugh or feel good about humanity, the no drama, no trauma zone, feel good factor.

Top 5 Translated Fiction

– a sample from the millions that we’ll never read, the few that have made it through to be translated into English, providing us a glimpse into storytelling from parts of the world we probably don’t even know how to ‘Hello’ in.

Top 5 Memoirs

– Not the rich or famous, just glimpses into a slice of life of someone who has experienced something that gave them an interesting insight into life.

Top 5 Popular Fiction

– just a really good unputdownable read.

For today, I’m going to share the Top 5 Books on my TBR (To Be Read) across different genres and themes, which at the moment changes daily!

Top 5 Books On My TBR

1. Courageous Dreaming – How Shamans Dream the World Into Being (Spiritual) by Alberto Villoldo – I’ve read 3 or 4 books by Villoldo and loved them all, a psychologist and medical anthropologist who studied the spiritual practices of the Amazon and the Andes, he shares more of these ancient wisdom teachings. You can read my reviews of his other works here.

I’ve already read each of the opening chapter quotes, which I find reminiscent of our times, Chapter One, Escaping The Nightmare begins with the following thought-provoking epigram:

“I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.”


2. The Shackle by Colette (Fiction) – I LOVE Colette, my favourite French classic author, a woman with attitude, totally outside her time, read Introduction to Colette (my review)here. I bought this novella because Vivian Gornick discusses The Shackle and The Vagabond in her new book Unfinished Business – Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader. I can’t read that till I’ve at least read The Shackle!

I have also read The Complete Claudine, (my review) a series of four novellas that can be read as one and I have Earthly Paradise, a selection of extracts from her  memoirs, notebooks, and letters which together provide an insight into her life.

3. The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden (Historical Fiction)– Last year I read Praise Song for the Butterflies,(my review) my first novel by McFadden and it was excellent. She seems to write well researched, easy reading novels that teach us something interesting, that earlier novel was inspired by a tale told her by two women she met when visiting Ghana concerning a practice called trokosi.

The Book of Harlan is historical fiction set during WWII about black American musicians in Paris invited to perform in a Montmartre, affectionately referred to by them as “The Harlem of Paris”. Also based on extensive research, it blends the stories of her actual ancestors and imagined characters.

4. Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Nature Essays) – One of my favourite nature essayists, Kathleen Jamie is a poet and an astute observer of sensory detail no matter what she is studying. Surfacing is her latest blend of memoir, cultural history, and travelogue of her visits to Alaska, Orkney and Tibet. From the thawing tundra linking a Yup’ik village in Alaska to its hunter-gatherer past to the shifting sand dunes of the preserved homes of neolithic farmers in Scotland, she explores the natural world, considering that which surfaces and that which connect us with the past.

My reviews of her debut collection Findings and Sightlines here.

5. Plainsong by Kent Haruf (Fiction) – There’s nothing like a good trilogy and I’ve read a couple of excellent ones, such as Sandra Gulland’s excellent historical fiction of the life of Josephine Bonaparte: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, Tales of Passion – Tales of Woe, The Last Great Dance on Earth and Nancy E Turner’s memoirs of her great grandmother Sarah Prine, an astonishing, willful, unforgettable pioneering woman who seeks a living in the harsh, untamed lands of the Arizona Territory circa late 1800’s, These is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt, A Star Garden.

Kent Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy follows the lives of a cast of characters in a small farming town in Colorado.

Ursula K. Le Guin said when he passed away in 2014 that Haruf’s

“courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love – the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection – are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction”.

I’ve just finished Octavia E. Butler’s excellent novel Kindred, so tonight I’ll start one of these. Watch this space!

Please take care everyone, don’t take unnecessary risks, stay at home and be safe.

What exciting read do you have on your TBR to read next?


39 thoughts on “Reading Lists for Total Confinement

  1. Looking so forward to seeing what is on each list! And love the TBRs. (Oh my gosh — that wonderful year with Josephine B and Sarah in the Arizona Territory.)


  2. Bonjour chère amie 💗 Thank you for your project; Reading List, I will be checking often. I have Sightlines and Unfinished Business – Notes of a Chronic re – Reader on my TBR.
    I started an arc I just wanted to read and it did not disappoint. On GoodReads the reviews are divided in 5 stars and 2 stars ???
    I am 3/4 through and it is a 5 stars. How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue. The writing is just beautiful. Yes it describes the total disregard of human life/nature by big corporations, I know not a relaxing read.
    Stay safe my friend 💗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonjour chère Sylvie, Ah yes, the diversity of opinions on Goodreads, the one place one we the stars aren’t always reliable, where I listen more to the little voice inside that says, “this sounds like something you might like”! I haven’t read Imbolo Mbue but I recognise the name and it sounds like a timely read, one no doubt that provokes feeling in readers.
      I look forward to following your reading and hope you have enough gems to carry you through this period as well Sylvie. Thank you for supporting my lists.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the idea of these lists, Claire. I hope you get to read Plainsong soon. It’s one of my favourite ever reads. Makes me very happy when I see other readers discover the quiet understated works of Kent Haruf.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The books all sound awesome! The lists all sound great so I’ll have much to look forward to! I noticed a couple of weeks ago that my “owned” TBR pile was getting sizeable and was planning on finishing up this last pile of library books and outside of two series I am going through concentrate on the owned books for a few months. Our libraries are closed here, and all due dates are extended to their hopeful reopening dates. So I have plenty of time to finish up the last of those library books and tackle the owned tbr, just a little sooner than I planned maybe. The only thing it might harm for me is the two series that I’m working on.


    • It is certianly a time to look closer at our own shelves and pull from them, I have been creating order and disorder all over my shelves and coffee table in complete delight as I decide what to read and then get inspired by a review of some other book I have on the shelf.
      Everything is closed here too, so no chance of replenishment for books, and that’s certainly one area I’m not going to be short of inspiration, I haven’t even looked at what’s on my e-reader yet.
      Thank you for commenting, I hope you enjoy the rest that will follow.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure I will Jacqui, I’ve been saving this for a quiet time and that sense of humanity was what drew me to it. And on that sense I also gave it to my father to read when he was visiting one time, so now I want to read it too knowing he already has, rare it is that we will have read the same books.


  5. Thank you Claire, I am in Paris. Have followed your posts for many years. I forward them to my college room mate who lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your recommendations and critiques and how I look forward to them. And I wanted to thank you for sharing the information about the death of your daughter. You are thought of with great care and respect every day. Salut, Brenda

    Brenda Prowse (360) 710-1690 (US) +33 (0)6 30 89 09 01 (Paris) 151 rue de Grenelle 75007 Paris, France



    • Thank you Brenda, that’s so kind of you to share with me, I appreciate that you follow my posts and share them with your friend and thank you for your thoughts and care, they are much appreciated. I hope you are doing well there in Paris. Bises, Claire


    • Oh thank you, it’s such fun putting them together and while people won’t necessarily have them to hand, perhaps there will be a few somewhere here that people recall they have . I find that often happens to me, I read a review and it’s re-ignites the desire to want to read a book I may have forgotten about, especially exciting when it’s a real gem lying there unread on my own bookshelf.


  6. Pingback: Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Reads #StayAtHome – Word by Word

    • No, I was late hearing about him, but that doesn’t surprise me as often works that are quintessentially American didin’t come across our radars in the days of old, when we relied on newspaper reviews and bookshop displays which tended to support homegrown literature. He was said to be a patient man who wrote quiet, beloved novels and “didn’t care much for the trappings of fame”.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Top Five Nature Inspired Reads #StayAtHome – Word by Word

  8. Pingback: Top Five Uplifting Fiction #StayAtHome – Word by Word

  9. Pingback: Top Five Translated Fiction #StayAtHome – Word by Word

  10. Pingback: Top Five Memoirs #StayAtHome – Word by Word

  11. Pingback: Top Five Translated Fiction – Word by Word

  12. Pingback: Top Five Uplifting Fiction – Word by Word

  13. Pingback: Best Reads of 2020 – Word by Word

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