Well, I’ve not done one of these for a while because I either missed the boat, or the subject didn’t grab me. As PoMoGolightly said, not sure I’d recommend all of these to one person, but feel free to pick and choose from this list at will. I’m going for books I love and re-read over brand new books, simply because books here in Australia are ridiculously overpriced, so I’ve not brought that many new ones lately. We seem to live in charity shops picking up ‘new to us’ books.
- Easily the book I recommend the most so at the top of the list, (it was one I hesitated over lending to Critical Alpha when Hubs and I sent him a Red Cross Parcel of six books, simply because he was off his gord on pain medication and you need to concentrate on it) is Possession by AS Byatt. I cannot tell you how much I love this book. I re-read it every year, you cannot whizz through it, you have to sit down, relax, relish and savour every single word. Not one person I recommend this to has ever come back to me saying, ‘Well that was awful/crap/hard going’ despite it being a literary novel. Two stories intertwine, one including Victorian poets, you’re reading C19th style poetry as part of the plot line, don’t skip it because it’s too hard, pick up the imagery. The other story is academics studying the poetry, the whole book is an education in construction of everything from stanzas to sentances to how a novel should be. I literally put it down breathless at the end of every reading.
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides this is actually in my labour bag as we speak, I started re-reading it while I was being monitored the other week. This is another perfectly crafted book and one I re-read. Watching Cal on his journey while he covers the family back story through his parents and grandparents is just pure pleasure.
- Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry not read this in a while, but it’s one that stays with you. A grandfather moves from his house where he lives with his horrendous step-children to his daughter’s flat, she has two small boys and a struggling at work husband. They all have to learn to cope with his Parkinson’s and deteriorating condition, but familial tension is captured to the point where you often wince in recognition. As an aside, this was also the book I talked about with Colin Firth, yes him…
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker if you haven’t read this book, please, for the love of God do so, and quickly, it will teach you so much about attitudes, stereotypes, and yourself. Then watch the film and sit in awe at how the pages literally come to life, it is simply the best book-to-film adaptation.
- Untold Stories by Alan Bennett a wonderful writer, this is the book he wrote to be released after his death when diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully he survived and has since gone on to write several more lovely books. Utterly glorious, it’s like he’s talking to you.
- Last Orders by Graham Swift following four friends along their lives, with the Last Orders being three of them driving to take the fourth’s ashes to be scattered. While the amount of alcohol consumed during the day out is crazy, that they can move at all by the end of it is an achievement, the story behind the story is surprising, compassionate and again the book transferred well onto film.
- Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor twenty-six days on a boat from Ireland to New York, set during the potato famine and mass emigration, the lives of people on the ship are connected in more ways than first appear. This is one of the books (as are the next two) we lent to Critical Alpha, he didn’t read it as it is about a murder and with his medication thought it would give him nightmares. It is a book that stays with you for a long time.
- On Beauty by Zadie Smith I love this woman, she writes so well the words sing off the page. I’ve not read a book of hers I’ve not loved, but this is my absolute favourite. The character of Kiki is a strong, powerful lady who is trying to hold her life together, it is so vividly described you can walk around their house in your mind.
- Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson please don’t start reading this book if you need to leave to go and do anything else in the next couple of hours. You will read it in one sitting, close it with regret and if you’re anything like Hanno, Hubs or myself, turn it round and read it again. The subtitle is ‘Eleven village cricketers take on the world’ the Captain Cook XI try to play a match on every continent, Harry is the captain and you can see him banging his head in frustration as useless players with excessive demands and British Airways consistently try to cock-up the tour.
- The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier for someone who left school early and nearly froze to death on New York roofs because he couldn’t afford some where to live, this man has worked and lived through more than most. It is an open, honest, simple memoir. In my case, heavily underlined, highlighted and well-loved. His voice speaks loudly as he talks about seeking truth and balance in his life. A quest we’re all on, one way or another.
So what of the other books on my ‘Books I Love’ tab? While I love them all, some are so personal I can’t always recommend them, because if you didn’t like them – I’d be mortified. As Sam and I talked about when I confessed that I hated The Hobbit and could not read LOTR, she said that she still likes me, but now views me in a different light. Luckily she was joking!
Why have I also saved this under the ‘Grateful’ category? I cannot imagine a life without reading, I can remember sitting on Mum’s lap reading Mog’s Christmas when I was small, I physically can’t go a day without a book in my hands, I need to switch off my brain, transport myself to wherever the book will take me. And while some people can’t re-read books time and again, the books on this list I’ve all read at least 3 times, usually more. I get different things out of them each time, the pictures change in my head, they teach me different things, or reinforce lessons learned before.