The Folio Society’s Top 10 Books For Social Distancing

As the UK continues in this unprecedented period of social distancing, Tom Walker, Publishing Director at The Folio Society, has pulled together his top 10 books to read whilst in self-isolation.

The Folio Society has been publishing beautifully illustrated editions of the world’s greatest and non-fiction books for over 70 years. So Tom knows his stuff!

How many of these have you read? And how many are now on your list?


top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.

“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”

Being stuck at home and only allowed out to go to the shops seems a good time to read about feminism. And this is arguably the first feminist novel.

Wildly surprising in its modern sensibility, Brontë’s novel rages against a society that held women shackled to men and the home.

top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.

“The Little Prince”

I can’t help thinking of how the Little Prince would respond to our world right now.

An enigmatic, compassionate but sad creature of the stars, I sometimes imagine the weight of his judgement on us all for the job we’re doing of keeping our little planet safe.

Image by The Folio Society.

“The World Turned Upside Down”

The English Civil War shook the nation to its core.

But from it scattered a legion of radical ideas and philosophies which have formed the national identity ever since. Read all about them here.

top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.

“Dr Zhivago”

What better time to re-engage with this great Russian epic?

The recent translation by Boris Pasternak’s nephew returns the lyricism and colour to this beautiful novel of love, war and the Russian soul.

top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.


What an opportunity to read this leviathan of a novel.

From the first pages in Nantucket, where Ishmael befriends trusty Queequeg, Melville loops his crazed tale of ambition and revenge, culminating in scenes of terror on the high seas.

Image by The Folio Society.

“His Dark Materials”

Pullman might be the purest storyteller of our times, and “His Dark Materials” is his masterpiece.

A truly addictive adventure story which leads us into other worlds.

top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

Turning to Margaret Atwood in times of trouble is always a good decision.

Prophetic or not, she is wise and compassionate, and laces those qualities with a killer wit.

Image by The Folio Society.


If all else fails, pick up a Maigret.

With plots as light as a feather and a stripped-down style, Simenon’s thrillers are beautifully evocative of the underground tensions of a mid-century Paris.

top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.


It’s always a good time to re-read Austen, to get lost in that luscious prose and arch wit. Persuasion is her last-completed, and perhaps her most mature novel, and a joy to revisit.

top 10 books

Image by The Folio Society.

“I Am Legend”

In the current circumstances this is not a book for the faint-hearted.

Matheson’s vision of a post-pandemic future doesn’t contain many people, and even fewer who are not zombie-vampires.

But there is a glimmer of hope at its end . . .

“The Mirror & The Light”

My eleventh choice is not yet available as a Folio Society edition. But I do hope that it will be one day!

This 900-page masterwork of astonishing delicacy and intelligence draws one back through the eyes of Cromwell to a Tudor London infested with plague and political instability.

You won’t regret reading it!

Click here to read the “Friend” team’s own book recommendations for social distancing. It’s not quite a top 10, but it’s close!

Or follow this link to read some of our most recent reviews.

Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.