A classic, so the saying goes, is a book that everyone wants to have read but no-one wants to read. Yet in these strange, topsy-turvy times, classics are apparently what people are turning to. According to an article in last week’s Guardian, booksellers have seen a surge in sales for the likes of War and Peace, In Search of Lost Time and (let’s hope the present situation isn’t quite this long) One Hundred Years of Solitude. Authors such as Stephen King and children’s writer Tom Mitchell, meanwhile, have reportedly seen lockdown as the right time to finally tackle Ulysses and Middlemarch respectively.

Is this the literary version of panic buying – the long novel being the ‘see you through the next couple of months’ equivalent of that 24-pack of loo rolls? Given that I’ve only read one and one third of those books mentioned above, I’m possibly not the best person to advise you on your reading choices. But personally, I’m finding it difficult in the current circumstances to focus and concentrate on anything substantial and weighty. I suspect I’m not the only one feeling the pressure of the present situation squeezing down on my shoulders, leaving me feeling fatigued and in need of a lift.

What I’ve been turning to instead is writing that is shorter, lighter and funnier. My go-to book the last couple of weeks has been The Most of Nora Ephron, an anthology of pieces from the late, great American writer. The book is a treasure trove of newspaper articles, essays, excerpts from screenplays like When Harry Met Sally and novels like Heartburn. Ephron is one of those writers who is effortlessly funny, by turns satirical and self-deprecating. A few pages of that is a spoonful of literary sugar to help the coronavirus news go down.

Alternatively, rather that turning to classics, why not try the latest books by our current crop of writers? Living authors need support far more than someone’s literary estate. There is some great writing about at the moment: in different circumstances, I’d be writing this article about how 2020 is fast becoming a vintage year for fiction. There are the big names writing at the top of their game: there’s Hilary Mantel’s new book, of course, while Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, out this week, is by far the best thing she’s ever written. But there are also a raft of emerging novelists ready to be discovered now and in the coming months – Rosanna Amaka, Hannah Persaud, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Katherine Slee, Clare Empson and Caiolinn Hughes among them.

Exploring someone new would be my reading recommendation. And remember: if you order online from Hive, you’ll be supporting both authors and independent booksellers alike.