This was one of my favourite posts to create last summer and, now that I’ve had a little bit of spare time, I couldn’t wait to compile a new collection. It’s a common complaint for an English student to have; I spend so much time reading (or not reading) course material and critical views that I have an ever-growing pile of books in my room that I want to read but can’t justify reading whilst I should be reading Austen!
Fortunately, the Easter break fell just after my birthday this year and – knowing me well – my friends and family gifted me with Waterstones vouchers galore. This meant I could finally go and replenish my stocks and cram the shelves of my beautiful handmade bookcase to the brim (s/o Josh who decided to do a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ review of each of my posts after I got upset that he showed no interested in my writing. He refused to let me publish them but in all fairness, he did make an incredible bookcase!)
So without any further ado, lets get to it. Here are the books I’ve been loving, piling up and can’t wait to get stuck into over this Easter!
The Muse – Jessie Burton
To emphasise the last time I was able to sit down and become fully immersed in a book, this book was included in my summer wishlist last year! I initially purchased this after tearing through Burton’s debut, ‘The Miniaturist’, in three sittings it was so gripping! I was eager to try Burton’s follow up novel which presents a dual narrative set in 1967 London and 1936 pre Civil War Spain. Burton expertly interweaves the two stories of a young woman from Trinidad with a desire to become a writer, and a 19 year old painter who conceals her talent from her family. Although initially sceptical about the amount of content it seemed that she was taking on, Burton certainly replicates – if not betters – her work with ‘The Miniaturist’ and excelled my already high expectations!
The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon
There were a couple of reasons why I picked this book up. The first of these was, once again, based on the name of the author. Arguably Haddon’s most prolific work of recent years was ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’. Another was that it is a compilation of short stories which is a medium that I’m currently being assessed on in a Creative Writing Module at University. I’ve been struggling with this form as I’m not blessed with the art of being concise. The namesake piece was undoubtedly one of my favourites with a stunning painting of ensuing carnage effortlessly unfolding, but I also enjoyed others such as “Bunny” and “Breathe”. The stories are short enough to read each one is a sitting and the collection has definitely helped me in the construction of my own stories; you can certainly ‘pack a punch’ with a short narrative!
Vinegar Girl – Anne Tyler
This is a book I’ve been circling around the edges of for a while now and never knowing whether to purchase or not. ‘Vinegar Girl’ is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series which is a project that aspires to present Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today and retells the classic story of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
Tyler tackles bringing the story forward into a 21st century setting by making it more relevant; the protagonist Kate is forced into a green-card arrangement for marriage as opposed to for financial benefits. She retains the wit from the original and has possibly brought about a new wave of readers being exposed to this wonderful story. I still adore the original though; any writer updating Shakespeare is always going to have to be spot on to appease my cynical judgement. That being said, this is a series that I’m very excited about, especially with Jo Nesbo releasing his retelling of Macbeth in 2018 and Gillian Flynn exploring Hamlet; to be (or not to be!) released in 2021.
The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett
By now you might be starting to gauge the varied types of book that I like to read. Whereas I’m not a particular fan of the ‘chic-lit’ genre, I am a sucker for a good romantic story from time to time. This book caught my eye as it seemed romantic but not stomach churning-ly slushy, and there was also a twist. The story follows three separate strands: in one, Eva and Jim meet at university and fall in love; in the second they just miss each other during a chance encounter; in the third they meet but it all goes terribly wrong.
Admittedly, this can become confusing to keep up with at stages: though in physical form you could read all of Version One and so on together then read another version I suppose. It’s a story about chance encounters and the choices we make that could have potentially very different paths. One review claimed it was a cross between two of my favourite novels: One Day by David Nicholls and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and this seems a perfect assertion. It’s almost like one of those ‘choose your own path through the story’ texts.
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
This is a book that, although I haven’t managed to get all the way through yet, comes from my number one trusted source of recommendation – my mum. I remember her reading this book and tearing through it within a few days because she was so engrossed. I’m waiting for a time where I have a few empty days because I feel as if I won’t want to read a chapter a night with this book!
‘All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of a young blind French girl and an orphaned German boy set between these countries in 1934. Marie-Laure’s father is an inventor who creates a miniature model of Paris for the girl from which she learns how to navigate through her home city. The boy, Werner Pfennig, has a talent for science and in particular the workings of radios. This brings him to the attention of the Nazis who send him away to be trained to become one of the ‘elite’. You know that these two narratives will eventually meet up at some stage in the book and it can be initially puzzling to find a link. Personally, I’m a fan of the post-modern non-linear structure utilised by so many authors today although my mum isn’t as keen. I can’t wait to get into this novel!
The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest
This one is also a little different from the usual books that I buy. Although this is Kate Tempest’s debut novel, she’s actually an acclaimed poet, playwright and rapper who released an album Everybody Down which was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize and this novel is seen as a companion piece to her work. Similarly to ‘The Pier Falls’, I thought that this would be an interesting read to benefit my own creative work, especially the way in which Tempest emphasises on word sounds and the power of language. The novel follows three characters through the ‘under-belly’ of London; not shying away from realistic depictions of our capital. My only negative thought with the novel is that you can’t help feeling that the visual descriptions would be more suited to a stage performance or in her usual form of spoken word.
Ireland and Italy – Rough Guides
I’m going to round up with a slightly different sort of book to the others on my list. Like most people my age, now I’ve gained independence and grown in confidence (plus the fact I have a decent income from a variety of part time work), I want to explore new places and travel to countries that I’ve always had a desire to visit. My attention was first drawn to the Rough Guides Travel Series during presentations in a Publishing Module last year. To date, over 200 different destinations have been covered in guides that aim to strike the balance between students travelling on a budget and tedious long winded descriptions of culture across 600 pages.
The books cover everything from street maps, transport, accommodation recommendations and the details of places to eat to cover any budget. Each destination is sub divided into chapters according to location and then focuses in on ‘Top Picks’ that you must see alongside historical and cultural details scattered throughout. Everything you could possibly need you can find in these texts.
I currently own two Rough Guides: A Guide to Italy and A Guide to Ireland. The first I purchased as it is on my bucket list to create my own tour through the beautiful Italian countryside and visit some of the major cities at some stage in my life; personally I’d like to go inter-railing on this trip to celebrate my 21st birthday next year – we’ll have to see!
The latter text I purchased the other day as my boyfriend and I will be going on holiday to Dublin at the beginning of the summer. We’re both very excited about this as it’s the first time we’ve been abroad together so we’re started relatively near to home as I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and Josh used to live there. We’ve found some fantastic student deals and some fantastic cheap excursions – in particular one to the Giant’s Causeway, so look out for an impending blog post about that!
Thank you so much for reading! As always, feel free to leave me any comments below of your thoughts and opinions of these books or any that you yourself are loving at the moment!