best books to read while self-isolating

Let me start by admitting that self-isolating for the past week has made me more creative. I have never come up with so many ways to use my time more productively. This week, I paid more attention to my diet and made sure that the meals we cooked at home are healthy. I tidied my home office and started editing photos from my personal folder. I practiced styling flat lays using props that I wouldn’t normally use. Best of all, I finally caught up on my reading list and have noted some of my favourite and best books.

I have always loved reading even as a young adult. Every time I achieved something in school, I would always ask my mom for a new book as a reward. It wasn’t long until I had curated a big book collection at home and created a list of recommended books for my classmates. These days, I don’t really have much time to read books. Therefore at the start of this year, I bought a big pile of books and promised myself that I would make more time for reading. My choices have changed from reading teen novels back in high school to reading a wide variety of topics now. I love reading about interior design, photography (of course!), social media, business management, marketing, travel and even history.

If you fancy knowing more about my recommended books, then stay with me. I hope that with these ten book suggestions, I can help you ease the boredom of staying at home during this time.

The story of Anne Frank (Anne Frank Museum), Hashtag Authentic (Sara Tasker), Pretty City London (Siobhan Ferguson), Brand Brilliance (Fiona Humberstone), The Luminous Portrait (Elizabeth Messina), For the Love of White (Chrissie Rucker), white candle covered by glass dome, Bloomingdale cracked glass teal vase with three pieces of bunny tails. Photo by Cristina Ilao Photography www.cristinailao.com

For the Love of White
(Chrissie Rucker)

I saw this book while shopping at one of my favourite stores, The White Company. I absolutely loved it just after a quick browse because it felt like I was looking at a catalogue of my dream home. It features beautiful homes styled with the white aesthetic in mind. If you like my light and airy photography style then you’ll love this book. I really enjoyed leafing through its pages and seeing various designs focused on creating a clean, classic and timeless look. It really inspired me to reorganise and style our home.

With the ongoing travel bans, government imposed lockdowns, event cancellations and initiative to practice social distancing or quarantine, we’re all mostly going to spend the coming days burrowed inside our houses. Expert studies show that the state of our environment reflects the state of our mind and well-being. Therefore if we’re mostly going to be at home for the foreseeable future, isn’t this the perfect time to start styling and reorganising it to be more conducive to a feeling of well-being?

Hashtag Authentic
(Sara Tasker)

Like most photographers, Instagram is my social media of choice. It’s one of the online places where I find inspiration, meet like-minded creatives and even learn new things. The author of this book, Sara Tasker, is one of the top Instagram experts and business coaches here in the UK. She used to work in the NHS then created her Instagram account while on maternity leave. She was able to quickly grow what started as a passion project into the multiple six-figure empire that she now owns. I find her and her success story very inspiring.

In her own words, this book is about “finding creativity and building a community on Instagram and beyond”. She offers useful and practical advice on relevant topics including the importance of storytelling, ways on how to find inspiration, ideas on how to turn inspiration into photos, methods of curating your personal gallery and ways of finding your people. If you love using Instagram, want to build your own online community or simply just want to have better photos, then this book is for you.

The Luminous Portrait
(Elizabeth Messina)

This recommended books list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include one about photography. If you’re dreaming of becoming a portrait photographer but you don’t know Elizabeth Messina, then you’re officially missing out. Elizabeth to me, is the best portrait photographer in the world. Her mastery of the craft and the way she portrays the female form has inspired me so much throughout my photography journey. You can tell how much she connects to the people she photographs just by looking at her photos. Needless to say, her work influenced me to venture into portrait and wedding photography many years ago.

This book is my absolute favourite and is a constant item in my reading list. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it and marvelled at Elizabeth’s beautiful flattering images. In this book, she generously shares her creative process. She talks about how she fell in love with photography, her philosophy and how she approached a photo shoot and so much more. This book is guaranteed to make you fall in love with portrait photography.

Reading List: including the story of Anne Frank (Anne Frank Museum), The ABCs of Journaling (Abbey Sy), Everything is Figureoutable (Marie Forleo), How to Style Your Brand (Fiona Humberstone), Pretty City London (Siobhan Ferguson), Brand Brilliance (Fiona Humberstone), The Luminous Portrait (Elizabeth Messina), For the Love of White (Chrissie Rucker), room scent reed diffuser empty with six reed sticks. Photo by Cristina Ilao Photography www.cristinailao.com

Pretty City London
(Siobhan Ferguson)

London is without a doubt, one of my favourite cities (next to Paris). In fact, I travelled to London more than twenty times last year. That’s the most number of visits I’ve been to one city in a year. Now that I am self-isolating at home and unable to travel to London, this book keeps me company on days when I get cabin fever. It’s my absolute favourite guide to London’s prettiest little corners.

Stay away from the guide books that only show you the crowded touristy spots. Those will not show you the real beauty of London. If you ever think of visiting the UK and want to appreciate the capital like a local, then this book is the perfect choice for you. In fact, it’s on the top on the list of my recommended books for London tourists and locals alike. It will help you navigate through the capital’s beautiful neighbourhoods so you can find some the best hidden gems, cafes and photo spots. There’s only a few that can show you the most Instagrammable spots in London better than Siobhan.

Cook House
(Anna Hedworth)

One advantage of living in Newcastle is having access to some of the best independent local restaurants in the UK. Cook House in the Ouseburn area is one of my favourite local restaurant at the moment. If you ever come to Newcastle and only have time for one meal, that is the place to go. I like going there not just because of their amazing food but also because of their interesting story.

Anna Hedworth owns the Cook House and is also the author of this book. Inside it, she talks about her story – how she left her desk job and started a recipe blog that turned into a supper club and later on become one of Newcastle’s well-loved independent restaurants. Anna shares delicious recipes from soups and salads to meat & game. She also gives useful tips on how to cook certain types of food. This book will not only help you create the most scrumptious meals. It will also inspire you follow your dreams and pursue your passion.

The Story of Anne Frank
(Anne Frank House)

I bought this book during a random trip to Amsterdam. You’ve probably read The Diary of a Young Girl. If not, you’ve probably heard about Anne Frank from your literature or history teacher back in school? Maybe you’ve seen the museum dedicated to her in that movie, The Fault in Our Stars? In case you’re still clueless, Anne Frank is well-known for her diary. She wrote it while she and her family were in hiding during the Holocaust.

I’ve travelled quite a lot over the last decade and have visited numerous museums around the world. However, none of those has made me more emotional than the Anne Frank House and Anne’s story. This book is not the diary itself. It is the story of Anne’s life, her family and their life during the second world war. It includes unpublished photos of the Frank family as well as photos and facts about the Annex (where the family hid for two years).

Anne Frank’s story will inspire you to find and appreciate beauty in adversity. If it doesn’t, I’m sure it will at least make you realise that being quarantined at home (especially in a time of peace) isn’t that bad after all.

Best Reads: The story of Anne Frank (Anne Frank Museum), Hashtag Authentic (Sara Tasker), Pretty City London (Siobhan Ferguson), Brand Brilliance (Fiona Humberstone), The Luminous Portrait (Elizabeth Messina), For the Love of White (Chrissie Rucker)

The ABCs of Journalling
(Abbey Sy)

I grew up thinking that I can only earn a living by having a desk job. Coming from a family of lawyers and accountants, this idea was deeply ingrained in my brain. It’s no surprise that I became an accountant myself. But truth be told, I never enjoyed studying numbers. When I look back on my younger years, I vividly remember how much I enjoyed art class. I’ve always been drawn to my creative side even as a kid. This is probably why I ended up becoming a photographer. I get so inspired by artists who courageously pursue a creative path rather than follow a corporate career.

Abbey is an artist hailing from my home country, the Philippines. She started her journalling journey at the young age of 13 and many years later, successfully inspired a movement among both local and international artists. In her book, she shares her personal story, the different daily journalling types, travel journalling, journalling projects to try as well as some frequently asked questions. She features some local Filipino artists, bloggers and writers who also shared their own stories. If Anne Frank inspired you to start your own diary, then Abbey Sy will surely inspire you to try artistic journalling.

Brand Brilliance
How to Style Your Brand
(Fiona Humberstone – The Brand Stylist)

These books are for those who want to level-up their branding and marketing game. If you’re looking to elevate your brand, figure out your voice or make changes to your business, Brand Brilliance and How To Style Your Brand are some of the best books to read. Branding is not just limited to creating a beautiful logo or using branded stationery. It goes deeper than building a website that looks pretty.

These books were recommended to me by fellow creatives in the wedding industry and for good reason. They not only cover important topics such as how to find brand clarity and how to achieve brand brilliance. They also give readers a glimpse into Fiona’s tried and tested process for creating a brand that flourishes. More than just a guide, but a practical action plan for building a business that truly works.

Everything is Figureoutable
(Marie Forleo)

Experience has taught me that the way I think can make a big difference in the kind of life I live. I’ve learned that getting the right mindset can spell the difference between success and failure. Life will keep throwing you lemons and you can’t keep playing the victim. If you want to achieve something, you need to figure out a way and do the work to make it happen. This is exactly what Marie Forleo teaches in her book.

I totally recommend reading Everything is Figureoutable if you feel like you are stuck in a rut, frustrated with your current situation, feeling hopeless or simply just need a dose of positivity. Marie will make you realise that if you really want something, there are no excuses. She has a no-nonsense approach to figuring out how to reach your goals and achieve even your wildest dreams.

Best reads: The story of Anne Frank (Anne Frank Museum), Hashtag Authentic (Sara Tasker), Pretty City London (Siobhan Ferguson), Brand Brilliance (Fiona Humberstone), The Luminous Portrait (Elizabeth Messina), For the Love of White (Chrissie Rucker), Bloomingdale cracked glass teal vase. Photo by Cristina Ilao Photography www.cristinailao.com

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