The world is hardly the most relaxing place right now so, as ever, I find myself turning to books as a means of distraction as well as a means of seeking knowledge and positively engaging with the world.

With that said, as a reader, I can’t help but consider the writer and I’ve found myself doing that more than ever over the past few weeks.

If a book provides a welcome distraction, it is only able to do so because someone created that world for us to reside in for a time; when we gain knowledge from the books we read, it is only because a writer chose to impart it.

The current situation means that many writers, those who have put months and years of work into their books, are now having to cancel book tours and other promotional engagements, which means that their books are unlikely to reach the audience they might have otherwise. For debut and lesser-known authors in particular, I can only imagine the impact this might have.

With this in mind, I made a last minute decision to come to you with three feel-good book recommendations for those of you looking to seek refuge in a world a little brighter than this one and, alongside those, I’m going to point you in the direction of four books that have either been recently published, or are being published this month. These are books I’m looking forward to reading and I imagine many of you will appreciate them too.

1. Ayesha at Last – Uzma Jalaluddin

One of my favourite books of last year, I’ve mentioned it before but it feels appropriate to mention it again. This story is just so lovely; the characters felt familiar and it made me smile more than once. A Pride and Prejudice retelling with Muslim protagonists done so right.

2. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

When Nikki takes what she thinks is a creative writing job at her local Sikh temple, she arrives armed with her feminist ideals and grand plans to educate these women she really knows very little about. Of course, these women have other ideas and, instead, it is Nikki who receives an education she hadn’t bargained for.

Before you judge me too harshly, this book isn’t what it sounds, at least not entirely. This is a story about womanhood, female friendships and the secrets that exist within this community and so many others. It is amusing and very touching and I think it would make for a rather entertaining distraction.

3. Felicity – Mary Oliver

Felicity is a poetry collection to call upon when you need to be reminded of the power of love and the beauty that exists in the world. You can’t go wrong with any of Mary Oliver’s collections but this one is a favourite.

“I have refused to live

Locked in the orderly house of reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in is wider than that. And anyway,

What’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen. I’ll just tell you this:

Only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.”

The World I Live In ~ Mary Oliver

Books to Look Out For:

  1. The Invisible Muslim: Journeys Through Whiteness and Islam – Medina Tenour Whiteman (Available now)

‘In this searingly honest memoir, Whiteman contemplates what it means to be an invisible Muslim, examining the pernicious effects of white Muslim privilege and exploring what Muslim identity can mean the world over- in lands of religious diversity and cultural insularity, from Andalusia, Bosnia and Turkey to Zanzibar, India and Iran.

Through her travels, she unearths experiences familiar to both Western Muslims and anyone of mixed heritage: a life-long search for belonging and the joys and crises of inhabiting more than one identity’.

2. Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone – Minna Salami (Published 15th March 2020)

‘In Sensuous Knowledge, Minna Salami draws on Africa-centric, feminist-first and artistic traditions to help us rediscover inclusive and invigorating ways of experiencing the world afresh […] Salami offers fresh insights into the key cultural issues that affect women’s lives. How are we to view Sisterhood, Motherhood or even Womanhood itself? What is Power and why do we conceive of Beauty? How does one achieve Liberation? She asks women to break free of the prison made by ingrained male-centric biases, and build a house themselves- a home that can nurture us all.’

3. An Act of Defiance – Irene Sabatini (Published 19th March 2020)

‘Harare, 2000. Gabrielle is a newly-qualified lawyer fighting for justice for a young girl. Ben is an Urbane and charismatic junior diplomat, attached to Harare with the American embassy. With high-level pressure on Gabrielle to drop her case, and Robert Mugabe’s youth wing terrorising his political opponents as he tightens his grip on power, they begin a tentative love affair. But when both fall victim to a shocking attack, their lives splinter across continents and their stories diverge, forcing Gabrielle on a painful journey towards self-realisation.

4. Modesty: A Fashion Paradox – Hafsa Lodi (Published 19th March 2020)

‘This book speaks to the various personalities and companies who have helped shape the modest fashion industry into such a significant retail sector, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement, such as one pressing question: even if it covers the skin but is flamboyant, modelled with the purpose of attracting attention, can fashion truly be modest?’

If you’re in search of a good book over the coming days, weeks or months, and you’re in a position to do so, consider shopping at your local independent bookshops – this is likely to be a worrying time for them.

If not, find books wherever you can, whether physical copy, e-books or audiobooks. Borrow them from your library if they’re still open, check out your local charity shops for secondhand bargains, shout about the books you’re loving on social media (if you’re that way inclined) and recommend them to your friends. In the end it all helps.

Ultimately, look after yourselves and each other too. Happy reading!