15 shows, books and podcasts helping get us by while we're social distancing

Now is a good time to catch up on an old book or television series you've been meaning to watch

Avidly scouring Netflix for new content has become a popular pastime. Courtesy Netflix, Simon & Schuster
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As more people practice social distancing to help counter the spread of Covid-19, this means more people are spending time at home. However, that doesn't need to be a bad thing. Here are some of the television shows, books and podcasts that have helped get us by the last couple of weeks while we self isolate.

'The Body: A Guide for Occupants' by Bill Bryson

In typically humorous style, Bill Bryson has written a guide to the human body, that like his book A Guide to Nearly Everything, is packed with mind boggling facts. Stuck at home, learning about the mites that live in our eyelashes and that we are in fact more bacteria that human, is horrifyingly fascinating. By the end of a day working from home I cannot look at a screen for one second more, so for me a book is the only way to retain my sanity.

Sarah Maisey, deputy Luxury editor 

'100 Humans'

I've been watching the Netflix series 100 Humans. It's an interesting (and sometimes humorous) attempt at answering's life questions through a series of "social experiments" conducted on 100 humans. Questions answered include: what age group is most effective? Which gender is vainer? And are people more creative when it's about fun? Of course, the challenges might be a little flawed but it's still a worthy and entertaining show that's easy to binge through.

Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor

'Desert Island Discs'

For some lighter distraction, I'm catching up on the latest episodes of the Desert Island Discs podcast, the BBC Radio 4 show that asks celebrities to recount the eight songs they'd want to be stranded with on a desert island. Actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Everett and singer Melanie C are among the most recent guests, but I'd recommend dipping into the archives.

Emma Day, deputy features editor


I've been revisiting early 2000s drama-thriller series 24. The show follows Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer as he tries to stop an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate while also rescuing his wife and daughter. It is the perfect escapism while safely staying indoors. Because, as bleak as things are right now, my day is never going to be as bad as Bauer's.

Emma Day, deputy features editor 


Each episode of this classic game show from America runs at about 20 minutes, so it's become the perfect time-filler for me, as it was recently added to Netflix Middle East. It keeps my mind alert and, even though I barely know any of the answers, I have a lot of fun playing along pretending I do. If nothing else, I learn some incredibly useless facts about the world. Just skip over the part where the brainy contestants tell show host Alex Trebek some very inane life stories.

Katy Gillett, Weekend editor

'Half of a Yellow Sun' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In a bid to read award-winning books I've missed out on, I picked this 2006 novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from the Kindle store and couldn't be happier that I did. It's set at the time of the Biafran War and told through three perspectives: Olanna, the daughter of a rich family, who leaves her life of privilege in Lagos to move to a small university town to live with her professor boyfriend; her partner's 13-year-old houseboy, Ugwu; and Richard, an Englishman, who is her twin sister's boyfriend. It's about how complicated and intertwined their lives all get, as Nigerian troops advance, and their ideals – and loyalties – are tested. Adichie's writing is entertaining and easy to read yet full of description and colour, all while giving me insight into a subject I know next to nothing about.

Katy Gillett, Weekend editor


A Netflix original, She is the story of a young, timid female constable in the Mumbai Police, who goes on an undercover operation that not only changes her life, but opens her eyes to things she did not know about herself. The relatively short first season features about half-hour episodes that are fast-paced, engaging and keep you on the edge of your seat. Even though newcomer Aditi Pohankar is undeniably the star of the show, Gully Boy actor Vijay Varma stands out with his portrayal of drug cartel member, Sasya.

Aarti Jhurani, sub-editor

'Self Made'

Based on a true story, Self Made is a Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer as American businesswoman and philanthropist Madam CJ Walker. She started out by making hair products for African-American women at a time when racism was rife in the United States, and seeing her perseverance, hard work and the spirit to fight all odds to achieve her dreams is inspiring. An incredible tale of rags to riches, Madam CJ Walker went from being born in poverty and working as a washerwoman to establishing a business that provided thousands of black women working opportunities and a source of income.

Aarti Jhurani, sub-editor

‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn

From the author of Gone Girl, Dark Places is another twisted tale, this time of a family, which constantly switches between real time and flashbacks. The protagonist, Libby, is the only remaining survivor when her family is murdered, which her brother is in jail for. Twisted and at times sad, this complex storyline is a page-turner, and while it isn't as thrilling as Gillian Flynn's previous work, it is one of those titles you just cannot put down till you reach the end.

Aarti Jhurani, sub-editor

‘Interior Design Masters’

I am watching Interior Design Masters, a Netflix reality TV star about a group of people competing to win an interior design reality show. The creativity is insane and if you ever needed a push to get home renovating, this is it.

Farah Andrews, assistant features editor

‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas

I've just read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This may be some Young Adult literature, but it's a very thought-provoking look at race and culture in America. At times it is an enraging read, but I also found it warm and super inspiring. You will be able to sit down and read it in a handful of sessions.

Farah Andrews, assistant features editor

‘Crash Landing On You’

My partner, who is in London, and I have been watching Crashing Landing On You, a Korean drama on Netflix, using the Netflix Party plug-in on Google Chrome. The series follows what happens after a South Korean woman goes on a paragliding ride but gets knocked off course and accidentally crash-lands in North Korea.

Sulaiman Hakemy, deputy comment editor 

‘Cast Away’

Tom Hanks – an inspiring character in the nonfiction plot we all find ourselves in – overcomes solitude, the elements, thirst and starvation to survive four years on an island in the middle of the Pacific in Cast Away. Ultimately, his faithful companion Wilson – a volleyball – helps him reach salvation. Could I relate? Thankfully, not yet.

Kelsey Warner, future editor 

'Tiger King'

I downed all seven episodes of Tiger King on Netflix in two nights because it's bonkers and I couldn't tear my eyes away. It's a docu-series about the big cat industry in the USA (there are around 7,000 tigers in captivity in the States, and only about 4,000 in the wild worldwide). It is a documentary, yes, but the characters are like Chris Lilley parodies, the costumes are over the top and the plot twists are shocking.

Nyree McFarlane, features editor

‘Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982’ by Cho Nam-Ju

I just finished Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Ju. It's a short, very simply written book, but is a surprisingly tough read because it's bleak, but also very real. It's about a woman in South Korea who is smacked down by the patriarchy at every turn. Ultimately, it reminds the reader that institutional oppression is a) everywhere and b) maddening.

Nyree McFarlane, features editor