During the period of isolation and uncertainty brought about by the effects of the current global health crisis, many people are turning to books for comfort, relaxation and escape. And it’s really no surprise, given that literature is an excellent way to travel in the mind to places like Narnia, Hogwarts or even Middle Earth. In challenging, scary and lonely times books become an indispensable source of solace for a huge number of the population, and also a crucial way for us to remain connected when we are physically apart.

In response to the current situation of self-isolation, Ultimate Library have put together a list of the top ten books you’ve always wanted to read but never previously had the time. From timeless classics, to bold and inventive titles. These longer reads are sure to keep you occupied and entertained over the coming weeks.

Middlemarch book by George Eliot

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Vast and crowded with life and rich in both irony and suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in its minute inspection of character. This classic centres on the lives of the residents of Middlemarch, a fictitious Midlands town, in the years preceding the 1832 Reform Act. The narrative consists of two main plots that follow the life of Dorothea Brooke and the career of Tertius Lydgate. A real must-read.

The Decameron Book by Boccaccio

2. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

In Italy during the time of the Black Death, a group of seven young women and three young men flee from plague-ridden Florence to a deserted villa in the countryside of Fiesole for two weeks. To pass the evenings, each member of the party tells a story each night, resulting in ten nights of storytelling over the course of two weeks, by the end of the two weeks they have told 100 stories. Written in vernacular Italian and acting as a major influence on The Canterbury Tales, this is a masterpiece of epic, tragic and comedic proportions.

Books by Toni Morrison

3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

In 1930s America, protagonist Macon learns about the tyranny of white society from his friend Guitar. Whilst Guitar joins a terrorist group, Macon heads home to the South, lured by tales of buried family treasure. His odyssey back home, followed by a deadly confrontation with Guitar leads to the discovery of something infinitely more valuable than the gold he desires: the origins of his true self.

Wild Swans Novel

4. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Told through three generations of women – the grandmother given to the warlord as a concubine, the Communist mother and the daughter herself – Jung Chang reveals an epic history of China’s twentieth century. This novel is not only breath-taking in its scope, but it is also crafted beautifully. Completely unforgettable.

Anna Karenina Novel by Leo Tolstoy

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Many writers refer to Anna Karenina as the greatest work of literature ever and with a plot that meanders through a profile of over a dozen major characters, this work is as broad as it is detailed. It deals with a number of complex themes such as marriage, family, love and Russian society. A true classic.

Don Quixote Book

6. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Regarded widely as the world’s first modern novel, Don Quixote is one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written. The famous story of adventures chronicles knight-errant Don Quixote de La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain. A real classic that deserves all the attention it gets.

Lanark by Alisdair Gray book

7. Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray

This cult-Classic Scottish novel of dreamlike and fantastical proportions meanders through a swooping narrative that references some of the greatest works of literature known to man. After its publication in 1981, Lanark was hailed an instant masterpiece, published around the world to much acclaim. This is a tough read that centres on humankind’s inability to love, along with our simultaneous will to keep trying anyway.

A little life novel

8. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When four, young graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way in life, they start out broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition to succeed. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride but their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself and a past cannot overcome.

Wordsworth poetry

9. The Prelude by William Wordsworth

This unfinished, infamous autobiographical poem by one of the UK’s best-loved poets is much less largely read than his shorter pieces. Running alongside the politics of the French revolution, The Prelude is a real must-read for any poetry lover. Full of rhyme, ideas and nature – Wordsworth’s words still resonate today.

ovid poetry book

10. Metamorphoses by Ovid

Some of the most foundational myths that have shaped our literature and consciousness reside in this hugely dynamic, vibrant and tragic collection of poetry. An epic, historic and classical work that still speaks to some of the most pressing and extraordinary struggles faced by humankind.