Writers must read, and read widely, we’re told. Why would anyone not want to read?
I’ve always loved reading and was fortunate to be born into a home full of books. I can never understand when I go to somebody’s house and there are no books around. I wonder why? Why would you deprive yourself?
In my childhood and young adult years, I read widely around my O- and A-level set texts and ploughed through school recommended reading lists. I’m a completer, you see; I love nothing more than to see a line of ticks against every single book on a list.
I lost my way fictionally speaking for a few years. Busy with life, a career and weekends full of DIY, I confess (the shame… the shame…) that my reading narrowed to Cosmo and endless sort-your-life-out self-reflection and cod-psychology books. Venus and Mars, several dozen how to be a better woman and even more how to meet the man of your dreams texts all passed through my hands. They didn’t work.
In my late twenties I found my way back to fiction via the Sunday Times book reviews and best seller lists. I own up to occasional forays into chick lit (Bridget Jones had a lot to answer for) uber-commercial (John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer are sneered at by many, but rewarded me with hours of page-turnability) and even the odd few chapters of erotica (Black Lace, the forerunner brand to 50 Shades and all its imitators). But my pleasure has enduringly come from what might be called mainstream quality fiction – the sort of books which these days get talked about in book clubs and find themselves adorned with Richard & Judy or Costa stickers, and are so often on those 3 for 2 promotional tables at Waterstones.
Today I love reading and listening to these types of books, and I’ll typically have 3 or 4 on the go at once; paperbacks, e-books and audio. I love stories which engage me with the quality of their writing and the depth of their characters, but deliver a great plot and a satisfying ending. And I particularly enjoy stories with a psychological edge.
But I was sorting out my bookshelves the other day and I realised that I’ve enjoyed many different types of books over the years. Just for fun, I thought I’d let you in on a few of my favourites. I’m not trying to be smart or clever – just me – so there are pot-boilers and airport books as well as contemporary literary, funnies and even the odd classic. Whilst I have few favourite authors, I’ve only included one book from any particular author. It’s not an exhaustive list, by any means – it’s really not – just a few notables.
Sizzling Psychological Suspense
- Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
- Blue-Eyed-Boy – Joanne Harris
- Before I Go to Sleep – S J Watson
- Room – Emma Donoghue
- Monster Love – Carol Topolski
- Acts of Violence – Ryan David Jahn
- A Quiet Belief in Angels – R J Ellory
- London Fields – Martin Amis
- My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell
- Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
- E: A Novel – Matt Beaumont
- The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Jumped out of a Window – Jonas Jonasson
Books I just loved from beginning to end, sometimes without even knowing why
- A History of the World in 10½ Chapters – Julian Barnes
- Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
- Beach Music – Pat Conroy
- Wild Swans – Jung Chang
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
- Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada
- One Day – David Nicholls
Books that made me want to give somebody – anybody – a huge hug
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
- The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
- Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – Mark Haddon
- The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
Amazing audiobook narrations
- The Casual Vacancy – J K Rowling (narrated by Tom Hollander)
- Dominion – C J Sansom (narrated by Daniel Weyman)
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson (narrated by Saul Reichlin)
- The Help – Kathryn Stockett (narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell)
- A Kind of Intimacy – Jenn Ashworth (narrated by Jane Collingwood)
I’d love to know if you have a favourite read, and why. I’m always on the lookout for books that leave their mark on a reader and I’m sure I miss many, many great reads. So, tell me… what would you recommend?