I love books, they can lift your mood, give you hope and take you to other worlds. They can help you find the answer to a question (I’m old and grew up in a time before you could Google all your answers), they can educate, bring comfort, and help us understand ourselves and others better.
Scrolling social media on World Book Day brings me joy, not only seeing all the children dressed up but seeing everybody post about their favourite books, with this in mind I thought I would share a few of my favourites. This is nowhere near a complete list of books I have enjoyed over the years (that would be a novel in itself) but I have narrowed it down. Some lots of you will have already read but I hope that I might introduce you to something you haven’t.
To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
I first read this as part of my GCSE English literature. Since then, I have read it several more times. To Kill a Mockingbird explores childhood, injustice, doing the right thing and a child’s awakening to racism and prejudice. Scout and Jem are raised by their father Atticus a well-known and respected lawyer. When Tom Robinson a black man is falsely accused of raping a white woman Atticus agreed to defend him despite this causing outrage in the community. Atticus knows he can’t win the case for Tom in a town full of racism, but he knows it is the right thing to do. Whilst I love this book it makes me sad that although the book was set during the Great Depression all these years on, we are still seeing the same inequalities and prejudices in the world.
As Atticus said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
The Crying Tree – Naseem Rakha
A friend lent this book to me about 10 years ago maybe more and it has stayed with me ever since. When Irene’s son Shep is found murdered each member of the family reacts differently from alcoholism to feeling neglected. The killer is put om death row. Years after the murder Irene becomes compelled to write to her sons’ killer and finally finds a way to forgive him. The novel explores grief, grace, capital punishment, prejudice, and forgiveness.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Another GCES English literature book that I have come back to time and time again. I adore this book. I love the humour. Although perhaps somewhat controversially I am not a massive fan of Mr Darcy I think he is a bit arrogant, but Elizabeth Bennet I love. Jane Austen had a great knack for making characters come alive.
One Day – David Nicholls
What can I say? I read this book and I cried and then I cried some more. Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation. The next day they must go their separate ways.
The novel looks at where they are on the same day each year over a period of 20 years. I loved getting this glimpse into their lives and their relationship. Dex is a rising star who at times is a bit of dick. Emma is a schoolteacher. Their friendship peaks and wanes and emotions are often raw, but something always pulls them back together.
The end of this novel left me bereft and though I have returned to the book on two more occasions since and know what is in store for them it still breaks my heart every time.
We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
This book still gives me chills just thinking about it and contributed to me not wanting to have children for a very long time. Eva never wanted to be a mother. She is spirited, independent and liberal. Then she has Kevin who shown through Eva’s eyes. He shuns her from birth, refuses to speak (even though he has learnt how), he won’t be toilet trained. He is apathetic and only comes alive when he can get Eva to express rage. Whilst Kevin is definitely a dark character Eva is in turn not very loving towards him. It is a little bit chicken and egg. Has the novel reaches its devastating climax it will have you questioning yourself and your views on nurture and nature.
This novel is not an easy read, it is not a quick read, but it is definitely worth reading.
Versions of Us - Laura Barnett
The book starts with the main male character Jim walking along a lane when a woman approaching swerves on her bike to avoid a dog. The book explores three possible versions of what happens next. Three possible lives those two people will have with or without each other, how their lives will be intertwined regardless. I love how it explores how those simple choices we make day to day can affect our future and I truly believe (as the book suggests) that people who are meant to be in your life will definitely enter it even if we don't know when. I can't write any more without giving things away but it definitely goes into the very small pile of books I have that are read again (for anybody interested currently the only books I have read two or more times are To Kill a Mockingbird, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Pride and Prejudice and One Day).
The girl with the louding voice – Abi Dare
I got this book as a gift for my birthday in February and it is beautiful. It's thought provoking, heart-breaking and inspiring all at once. The story focuses on Adunni a 14-year-old girl from a small village in Nigeria. She is sold by her father to become third wife to an older man in the village. Adunni is expected to fade into silence. But, she will not be silenced. She is bright, funny, curious, and brave. She is determined to get an education and despite the adversity she faces she will not settle for her fate. Adunni flees her village and ends up in wealthy Lagos where all is not as it first seems. Adunni wants to make history (or her-story which is the way she describes what she wants to do) This book had me holding my breath in parts. On the whole it is the story of courage, overcoming adversity, being true to yourself and friendship. And whilst the idea of living in a village where you can be married off to an old man at 14 and denied an education is something that we in the West may not be able to comprehend I believe that there is a bit of Adunni in all women and girls, as the book says "Inside every girl is a louding voice. A voice to speak up for herself, for the girls who came before her and for all those who will follow." I think Adunni's story will stay with me for a long time.
The Push by Ashley Audrian
This was a gripping read and I only finished it last night. Warning if you don't have children but plan to, I'd say don't read it just yet. Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.
Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with daughter Violet. She is cold and doesn't act like other children. Or is it all in her head? The more her husband dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her sanity. When their son Sam is born, she has the connection that she imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life is changed in a devastating way Blythe has to start facing the truth. This is Ashley's first book and a must read. I couldn't put it down.
Quick shout out to some of the best non-fiction books I have read.
The book you wish your parents had read and your children will be glad you did -Phillipa Perry.
I’m not a massive fan of parenting books as they rarely consider the individual child or parent, but I swear by this one and it changed how I parent. This isn’t a this is how you do it one size fits all book; it is definitely a take from it what you need book. For me, the key things were looking at what behaviours push me over the edge and why and then looking at how to set a firm boundary before that point and not making your children say sorry. This sounds like a contradiction, but it is the best thing I have done, the joy of getting a sorry because he understands what he has done and can empathise as opposed to some forced apology is delightful.
Quite by Claudia Winkleman
In the book Claudia talks about all aspects of life from husbands to naps (she's a big napper), to boots, to squirrels (yes squirrels) and everything in between. I loved the style of writing as it was just as she speaks. It felt like one of those chats (but in writing) where you're with your best mate, you start on one topic and 4 hours later you've sorted the whole world out. We didn't agree on everything. Here are somethings she likes that I can take or leave wearing all black, too much eyeliner, naps, scented candles, and buffets to name a few. There was loads I did agree with her on including. Men who say they 'babysit' their own kids. 🤮 Picnics (overrated) Not expecting 'him' to be your 100 per cent e.g. don't expect one person to fulfil all your needs that's why we have friends, hobbies etc People who complain all the time (drains) Unannounced guests (I love visitors but let me know in advance) Couples who call each other mummy and daddy 🙄 People who say "to be honest" as a precursor to saying something horrible (especially when you haven't asked) Manners matter Ask for help. Like I say I loved it and it was a nice easy read.
Wish we knew what to say - talking with children about race by Dr Pragya Agarwal
This was an eye-opening read. I wanted to read this book as I felt it was important to educate myself more about race and I wanted to be armed with information on how to discuss these issues with my own son. Some may ask why as a mixed-race woman do I need to read a book like this? The answer is everybody needs to read a book like this. I have my own experiences of racism as a light skinned mixed race woman. my experiences will be very different to my dad's and Otis who is 'white passing' will probably have a very different experience to both of us. Also just because I am not white doesn't mean I understand everything surrounding race, in fact after reading this I realised I didn't know much at all. The information about why it is important to discuss race with children, how to do it and why "not seeing colour" is not a good thing was really interesting. It was also full of information about many issues such as when children notice colour (much younger than you might think), how to help your child to be an ally, why not answering their questions about race has a negative impact and how early prejudice is formed by what they see, hear and more importantly the things they don't see and hear were eye opening. It encouraged me to explore my own prejudice (we all have them) and I now feel better armed for chats with my little wild thing. It was really easy to read as well. I would say it is worth a read even if you don't have kids of your own. If we want the world to change, we all need to educate ourselves.
F**ked at 40 by Tova Leigh I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. In the past I have read books from people I follow on Instagram and been very disappointed. I have realised the reason for this is I am a doer. If I don't like something, I change it, if I'm unhappy I try and find a solution I'm not really one for sitting and moaning about things I can change. This is why I loved what Tova had to say as she is a doer as well. Bored in her marriage, they decided to have an open one, fed up with looking after the kids and having no life, she got a nanny, went on holiday with the girls and climbed Everest. Didn't like her job she tried something new. I like that in a person. If you've ever thought "Bloody hell is this it...is this life?" You'll take something from it. Our bugbears were similar such as labelling things mum such as mumprenuer, mum bun as if once you have kids that is the most defining thing about you. She even mentioned mum jeans which was funny as I saw a pair of jeans in a shop just the other day labelled mum jeans, I didn't know what that meant about the fit of them I just knew the label meant I would never in a million years try them on. She talked about other things I rant on about a lot such as women getting sexualised all the time but heaven forbid if a woman actually embraces her sexuality she will probably be shamed. Don't get me started on telling girls that their virginity is a prize or a gift for some lucky man and therefore they should hold onto it at all costs. The fact that wanting a break from your kids doesn't mean you don't love them and that it is ok to not be perfect and still consider yourself a good mum. That we should tell people we love them more and finally just because somebody thinks something of you it doesn't mean it is true. If you know who you are it doesn't really matter what others think and everybody doesn't have to like you. A brilliant read and relatable for me. I want Tova to be my new mate.
Are any of yours here? What would you add?
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