In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.2)

books

Reading continues to bring me comfort, an escape from my busy every day life and a chance to completely engulf myself in someone’s world. Reading a good book is pure magic. In September, I shared 10 books that you need on your bookshelf and now I am back with the next installment. I am storming through books at the moment and have been lucky to happen upon some right crackers. With libraries closing there doors I have been relying on my bookish pals to provide me with excellent reading material and they have seriously delivered. This may well become a regular feature on my blog. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

My brilliant friend & the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
Oh boy I loved these books and felt genuinely heartbroken when I finished the 4th installment. Ferrante is an incredible writer and no one knows who she is. The characters she creates seem so real and I was completely enthralled by the story. The novels follow two central characters – Elena & Lila from childhood to adulthood. I had to keep referring back to the useful character list at the start of the novel to keep track of who everyone was but by the conclusion, they all felt like old friends. It is almost like an incredibly well written Italian soap opera with so many twists and turns that it pretty much took my breath away. Perfection.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing is a historical fiction novel which with each chapter follows a different descendant of an Asante woman. The book starts with her two daughters, who are half-sisters, separated by circumstance. Subsequent chapters follow their children and the following generations. The novel beautifully explores the slave trade and imagines life in Ghana at that time, and as we move forward through time we see what slavery becomes in the US, and how it changes Ghana. I couldn’t put this book down.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
We found this book for 50p in a charity shop just before lockdown, impressed that it had won the Booker prize in 2008. The White Tiger felt different to any book I have read before. I was transported from my sofa to the underbelly of India as I journeyed with the protagonist, Balram. Over the course of seven nights, by the light of a chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life. I’m really pleased this book is set to become a film as the imagery felt so clear in my mind – I hope it lives up the novel!

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
I found this book in a phone box which has been repurposed by the community as a free book shop. I had heard about the novel a while ago but had never got around to reading it. I love books that take me somewhere new and this book captured 1850’s London brilliantly. This is a richly dark and gothic book about art, love and obsession. It is an unsettling immersive read, with its elements of horror, ideal for those who love historical fiction set in Victorian times. Previously, I hadn’t read many novels of this genre but I really enjoyed The Doll Factory. Shoutout to the phone box.

Fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by Fannie Flagg
Yes that really is the author’s name. This book is full of Southern American charm and made me feel very hungry at the descriptive passages about the food that was being eaten (luckily there is a recipe section at the back for the novel’s signature dishes). It’s a love story, a friendship story and so much more. There’s survival against the odds, murder, and plenty of humour. I did find some of the racist dialogue hard to read but I understand that this is very true of the time that the novel is set. I wish I could visit the Whistle stop cafe.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
At the Port Eliot festival a few years ago I heard an interview with Amy Liptrot about her new novel, The Outrun. I fell head over heels for Amy and knew that I needed to read her book immediately. I was v.sad I hadn’t read it before so I couldn’t ask any insightful questions. I digress. The Outrun is a memoir that at times feels like poetry. Amy leads a hectic life in London and recovery from addiction leads her back to her home on Orkney. Through these new surroundings she comes to terms with what has happened to her and finds new hope in the land around her. This book started my love of wild swimming and I could read it again and again.

The Stationery shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali
I’ll admit it. I haven’t actually finished this book yet but I love it so much that I know that I want to recommend it. This book is a reflection back on a love story that took place in 1953, Tehran. With a country who fought for democracy; for a couple who fought for it within their family. A couple who are destined to be together until torn apart for reasons unbeknownst to Roya, the lead character. Fifty years later, she gets her answer. I am still waiting to find out what that answer actually is but I am completely confident in the author that I won’t be disappointed by the novel’s conclusion. I will edit this if I turn out to be completely disappointed by the novel’s conclusion.

& Now for some of my favourite fluffy books that aren’t too hard on the brain and feel like a hug.

The Flat Share & The Switch by Beth O’Leary
The Flat Share is about two people who share a flat, with one working in the day and sleeping at night and the other sleeping in the day and working at night. It’s a frivolous romanic comedy that I can definitely see being turned into a film. For lots of non-reading friends, this book has got them back into reading. The Switch is about a grandmother and granddaughter who switch lives. The story is slightly predictable but I didn’t mind that because I wasn’t in the mood for surprises to be honest. These books would make excellent holiday books. In a word they are: lovely.

The Summer seaside kitchen by Jenny Colgan

Oh how we laughed when I picked up this book from a charity shop. The cover looked like a classic book for middle aged women to read on a sun lounger and I wasn’t expecting much at all. Then I couldn’t put it down and had to eat my words. The Summer seaside kitchen is the beginning of a series of books set on the fictional island of Mure. The books feel cosy and safe and include delicious food and likeable characters. I have Colgan’s latest Christmas installment which I am very excited to read next month.

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.1)

books

Going to the library has always been a treat. When I was young, it was the first outting I was allowed to do on my own because it didn’t require any road crossing so going to the library made me feel like a strong independent woman at the age of 10. When I was a teen, it was where I could go to play Habbo hotel to my hearts desire which was obviously extremely important to my social development and taught me the importance of good furni and that people on the internet shouldn’t be trusted. The other benefit of the library was of course, the books. I loved reading so much that I genuinely believed that me and Matilda were separated at birth. Although she definitely made better pancakes.

When I lived at home with my family we regularly all sat together and read our books and it’s something that I still look forward to when I go and visit my parents. Reading takes me to another place, it calms my busy brain and it gets me off my phone. Whilst at University that changed, I stopped reading for fun because I was too busy drinking jagerbombs and trying (and failing) to get through the complete works of Shakespeare for my degree. After graduating, my brain felt so full that I couldn’t imagine picking up a book again, so I went on strike.. for 7 years.

Last July a friend said they had a book they thought I’d enjoy and at first I was apprehensive because I was not a reader anymore but then I gave caution to the wind and inhaled it in 24 hours. Once again, I was back in my reading groove. A library card, Goodreads account and 115 books later, I am here to share some of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently, just incase you are in a reading rut too. I hope these books will help to reignite a joy of reading and please share any recommendations you have for me too via Instagram or in the comments. I have also stopped using Goodreads and now use StoryGraph.

Girl, woman, other by Bernadine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. This is a really clever novel which seamlessly links each narrator to the next and is an important book of our time. It is extremely worthy of its many accolades including the Booker prize.

Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Ownes

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Through two timelines that slowly intertwine, the author reminds us that we are shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. This is the best book I have read this year so far.

The Beekeeper of Allepo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper follows the flight of refugees from Syria to Europe and although a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience volunteering at a refugee center. Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, until the unthinkable happens and all that they care for is destroyed by war. The story is moving, powerful and a testament to the power of human spirit.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is about the life of William Shakespeare’s family whilst never actually mentioning that it is William Shakespeare’s family as the other characters are very much at the forefront. This book even made me want to read Hamlet again which I thought was physically impossible after it was my chosen text for A-Level English. O’Farrell is an incredible story teller and I highly recommend anything she writes.

The Salt path by Raynor Winn

Ray and Moth decided to walk the South West coastal path after being made homeless. This is an incredible story of resilience in the face of adversity. Since reading The Salt Path I have walked a large section of the coastal path and loved exploring the places mentioned in this book. I have also listened to this as an audio book which I found really special.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a character whose story is steeped in magic and mystery and Miller finally gives her the spotlight she deserves. In this book, the male centered fantasies of myth are turned into something feminine and real. Never before a fan of Greek mythology, this read completely won me over and has been shared numerous times amongst friends.

The Seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This novel tells the story of the fictional Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo, who at the age of 79 decides to give a final interview to an unknown journalist. The relationship between the two female leads is a testament to Reid’s skill as a writer as they consider what it means to face the truth. The story is heartbreaking and beautiful and I couldn’t put it down.

Daisy Jones & the six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I didn’t want to include two books by the same author but I just couldn’t decide between this one and the previous as they are both fantastic. Daisy Jones & the six follows a band whose music defined an era before they unexpectedly split in 1979 and no-one knows why, until now. Written as a series of interviews this is a compelling read and Reid easily transports you to the 70’s music scene. This book is being turned into a TV series which is currently in production.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to “house arrest” in the Metropol hotel during the Russian revolution. The book spans 30 years as the Count makes the most of his life despite its limitation. I didn’t think this would be my sort of book but I really loved it and genuinely felt sad saying goodbye to the Count when I reached the last page. I now want to go to the Metropol hotel who are making the most of this book’s success by offering book tours and themed afternoon teas. Sign me up!

Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with me weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, grief, and the bonds of motherhood. It is a story about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak. Set in the politic turbulence of 80’s Nigeria this book gripped me from the get go and didn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story which packs punch.