Top 10 Isolation Books

So, you're doing the responsible thing and staying indoors for three to twelve weeks. Great! Reading-wise, maybe you're taking the opportunity to catch up on books you haven't had the chance to read, or branch out into those literary novels that you always felt you should get through - or maybe now's the perfect time to read through your favourite thousand-page series (hello, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). But if you were looking for something more ... appropriate, I've compiled the top ten books that, in my opinion, encapsulate being isolated. I'm not talking about the human condition either: these are books about people cloistered, confined, trapped. If you're feeling claustrophobic already, these might make you appreciate that hour of exercise even more (or make you feel even more hemmed in, who's to tell?)

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


A literary classic and quintessential tale of intricate revenge, Dumas' story follows Edmond Dontes, who, on the day of his wedding to beautiful fiancee Mercedes, is arrested and imprisoned without trial for treason. Locked in solitary confinement within the grim walls of the Cheateau D'If, Edmond is almost driven insane - until he makes contact with a similarly incarcerated priest. Trapped within the prison for fourteen years, Edmond's over-riding thoughts are of revenge against those who betrayed him.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


This is a good place to start, as it's a short story, available for free online due to its age, and also hits a double whammy of being one of those should read texts. The narrator and her husband have retired to a country mansion after suffering "temporary nervous depression"after the birth of their baby, where the woman is instructed to rest and recuperate. Despite the size of the house, she is confined to the upper nursery with bars on the window and a bed bolted to the ground, with only the yellow wallpaper on the walls to distract her. There are a couple of different interpretations of the meaning behind the story, so it has scope for some interesting theories to go through afterwards.

The Pianist

Władysław Szpilman


The Pianist seems particularly poignant today with its ever-shrinking boundaries: even before the Polish Jews were confined to the minuscule ghetto, they were restricted in how much money they could own, where they could shop, how they could behave. When entire families were sent to a single room in a house, the space each individual could inhabit grew smaller and smaller - hiding in cupboards and lavatories from the Gestapo, herded into train stations, crammed into chattel trains - until they were literally extinguished. This memoir has been made into an award-winning film, but nothing compares to this first-hand account of the man who survived in the shell of a city.

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank


Possibly the most famous document to emerge from the Second World War, The Diary of a Young Girl is the musings of Dutch Jew Anne Frank, who, with her family and other refugees, hid from the Nazis during the Occupation. Anne and seven other people hid for over two years in the annexe behind a moveable bookcase. It's a raw account that focuses on the personal rather than the historical: how she got on with her family, the hopes and dreams for the future she put on hold to hide.

The Collector

John Fowles