Yes, yes, yes! Has Christmas come early? Nope. I just get the chance to write about books this week! I’m so, so excited for this. I love reading, I love the space that a good book carves out in your mind. There’s a cosy infinity with books that I think is rare. Usually, when you see possibilities or opportunities stretch out in front of you, you feel quite overwhelmed, stressed and even anxious. It’s different with books. As the FANTASTIC Jorge Luis Borges writes:
‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library’
— Jorge Luis Borges
(Although, considering his literary labyrinthine library of Babel I’m not sure what kind of Paradise Borges had imagined.)
LIST 49/52: ‘LIST YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS’
1. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World- Haruki Murakami
This is the book that I will recommend to you if you ask me my favourite book. Despite having a lot of favourites, Murakami’s masterpiece just sticks out in my head. It is crazy and non-sensical in a comfortable, completely understandable kind of way.
2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven- Mitch Albom
I actually recommended this one to a friend the other day. We were chatting about how crazy it is, the ripples that people cause just by living their lives. We chatted about how just one person can set off a positive chain of events in someone’s life, and how people can do the same for us too. You never know who you’re going to meet or just how important your existence is to other people.
Mitch Albom’s book is beautiful. It’s my second encounter with his books, my first was Tuesday’s With Morrie (another brilliant, humbling read). This one helped me with grief in ways that I didn’t expect it to.
3. Les Misérables- Victor Hugo
2012 hit and this musical changed my life forever. Until then, I knew nothing of Victor Hugo or his epic tale, but, after watching the musical over 20 times, I decided I needed to read it. I’d tried once before, to no avail. Over 1000 words is quite the quest, even for me.
Just before I left to spend my first Japanese Christmas in Osaka, a pretty big box arrived at my door. Temptation got the better of me and I opened it to find a present from home. There were chocolate brussels sprouts, those traditional Christmas PJs, baked beans and, nestled among the collection of gifts, was a gorgeous, gold-gilded, hard-copy of Les Mis.
I had no excuses then and, eventually, I got through it! It’s slow in places (as Hugo spends some time talking about the Parisian sewer system) but it’s worth it in the end. You learn a lot more about the characters than you do in the musicals.
Reading this book cover-to-cover remains one a very proud achievement!
4. The Golden House- Salman Rushdie
Rushdie alludes Trump to the Joker. That’s all you really need to know.
5. Wuthering Heights- Emily Brontë
A long time classic, and possible reason for my toxic relationships, is Wuthering Heights. The darkness of this book is haunting and irresistible. I spent one of my latest Christmases in Haworth, the home of the Brontë family with Ste and my family!
Besides, this book inspired Kate Bush to write an awesome song! Double win.
6. The Yellow Wallpaper- Charlotte Perkins Gilman
7. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race- Reni Eddo-Lodge
I wish that I had read this book years ago; it’s so well-written, so well-sourced and so on point. If any friends want to read it, I’m happy to lend you my copy.
8. The Fellowship of the Ring- J.R.R Tolkien
It was hard to pick just one out of the saga, but this one features Tom Bombadil!
I’m currently reading them with Ste. We started when I was in Japan in my second year. We would call before I’d go to bed and I’d read a chapter or so to him before I went to sleep. It was a way for me to feel a bit less alone at the start, but it became a really cute bonding experience. We’re now almost half-way through the Return of the King!
9. The Buried Giant- Kazuo Ishiguro
I love what Ishiguro does with memory and relationships in this book. There’s such delicate work put into it, the book feels like porcelain to read.
10. Matilda- Roald Dahl
Knowledge as superpower is the best message for a children’s book, ever.
11. 1984- George Orwell
The closeness of this book to events over the last ten years is terrifying. It’s a good one to get some critical social thought flowing and just for an interesting read!
12. Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs- Eleanor Mills
This book hit landed on my radar in college (16-18 for any US readers!) and has been wedged there ever since. I was blown away by it. The absolute talent that exists in this book inspires me to write.
13. The Bloody Chamber- Angela Carter
“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.”
14. The Help- Kathryn Stockett
‘All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.‘
15. Macbeth- William Shakespeare
Who doesn’t like watching the mental deterioration of a young, once-happy, couple who killed a king?
Seriously though, this is my favourite Shakespeare play hands-down. I’ve watched at least 4 versions of the play in the theatre and they’re usually pretty brilliant (except one that I watched in the Everyman with my dad a few years back).
16. The Crossing- Samar Yazbek
Samar Yazbek’s bravery is astounding and her book is phenomenal as is her determination to return, and continue to return, to her homeland, to see it with her own eyes. You can read an interview with Yazbek here if you’re interested.
17. The Ghost Bus- Anthony Masters
This is a classic one. The Ghost Bus was my favourite book as a kid. I lent it from the library a lot! My obsession with dark and Gothic literature seems to date back a while!
18. Unfollowing You- Komal Kapoor
19. To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee
‘Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. . . . There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.’
I remember reading this in school and as I opened the book and was introduced to the fictional Maycomb County, couldn’t help but feel a sense of familiarity with my own hometown.
20. Pojo’s Big Book of Pokémon
Pojo’s [Unofficial] Big Book of Pokémon was my bible as a kid! I still have this book, slumping proudly under its own weight on my bookshelf; edges worn with hours upon hours of excited flipping and pages scratched with haphazard pencil strokes from attempts to copy my favourite Pokémon.
21. The Spook’s Curse- Joseph Delaney
My high school plugged this series, and I’m so glad they did. I ended up buying all of the Spook’s book series and getting them signed by Delaney every time he came to the school. What more would expect from an official ‘Extreme Reader’? (Yes, there was a club).
I didn’t know at the time but Delaney is a local! He was born in Preston, trained as an engineer and attended my university, Lancaster, before becoming a full-time writer!
22. The Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde
Similar to Macbeth in its themes of corruption, this book is all about handling the consequences of our actions. It’s like a dark cautionary tale and I’m all for it.
23. Jane Eyre- Charlotte Brontë
‘I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.’
24. I Am Lazarus- Anna Kavan
This is one of my most recent reads and it’s still packing a punch. A very insightful book on illness. It had me questioning which was the most ill; the patient or the world in which the patients live?
Please let me know what you think of my list! Even better, give me some reading recommendations that you’d think I’d like/ need to read. I hope I’ve inspired you to read a little today!