I thought it would be fun to share with you just a handful of books on my ‘To Be Read’ pile. I would love to know if you’ve read any of these and have any thoughts on them. Comment below too with what’s on your reading list. Recommending books to each other is such a simple and quick way to make some amazing new discoveries!
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
My boyfriend has been on at me to read this book because he wants to watch the film together. I am an ardent believer that you should always try to read the book before you watch the film, who’s with me on this? The only exception I have to this rule is with The Lord of The Rings Trilogy – I adore the films but I could not for the life of me get through the books!
Anyway, back to Trainspotting. Described as ‘The voice of punk, grown up, grown wiser and grown eloquent’ (Sunday Times) this book follows the lives of several men in Edinburgh battling drug addictions, and the consequences faced by themselves and those around them as a result. It’s a really fascinating read because much of the book is written in heavy Scottish dialect. As such I’ve found myself reading parts of it aloud to understand the meaning! It’s an interesting technique on behalf of the writer though because it creates an incredibly strong character voice and immerses the reader in the world of the novel.
I struggled with this book at first because I found myself looking for a through-line or narrative arc, but if you treat each new chapter as a snapshot into a character’s life you’ll have much more joy. It tackles an intense subject matter but there are many light and humorous moments in it too. I’d recommend the book to anyone wanting to read something TOTALLY different to anything else they’ve tried. I’m not too far from finishing this book now – so I’ll have to pick something else from this list to read next…
Holding by Graham Norton
Graham Norton has always been a much loved comedian of mine, but it wasn’t until Summer 2019 that I discovered him as a novelist. I listened to the audiobook of his novel ‘A Keeper’, narrated by himself, and was totally hooked. A few months later I spotted this hardback edition of one of his other books, ‘Holding’, in a charity shop and simply had to take it home with me.
Few speak of what happened to Tommy Burke, or the events up at the big house. But when the land betrays a secret held deep in the ground, old rivalries, violent histories and unspoken regrets loom into view, and this once innocent seeming place must face its hidden past..
As with ‘A Keeper’, Norton sets his novel in rural Ireland and from reading the blurb it seems that this novel will be imbued with a dark and sinister edge, just as the other one is. His almost gothic subject matter is balanced with an elegant writing style that makes for pure, pleasurable and easy reading. I’m excited to tackle this novel and I’ll definitely let you know what I think when I’m done!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with startling heroism.
I am so looking forward to re-reading this book. I first read it when I was about 14 and it was one of the first truly moving stories I had ever read. I remember my mum read it first and I came into the living room to find her weeping as she turned the pages. I love a cathartic read so I naturally wanted to know what all the fuss was about! Oh my goodness, I can remember bawling like a baby reading this amazing novel. When people ask me what my favourite book is I always think of this one, and yet it’s been over ten years since I read it and I really struggle to remember the actual plot! So I thought it was high time I gave it another go. I can’t recommend this beautiful book enough.
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
I really enjoyed Sarah Perry’s ‘The Essex Serpent’ so I know I’m in safe hands with this book. It’s beautiful ornate cover really caught my eye but it was upon reading the blurb that I was convinced to buy it.
One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin meets her friend Karel on the street. Agitated and enthralled, he tells her he has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with personal testimonies that take them from seventeenth-century England to wartime Czechoslovakia, the tropical streets of Manila, and 1920s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing an unforgettable message. Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.
Doesn’t this sound in parts educational, enthralling, dark, sinister, magical, riveting – everything you’d want in a page-turner? Also, it’s set in Prague and I’m off on holiday there in March so what better way to get me excited to visit the city!
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
I’ll be honest I know very little about this book. It’s not one I’d heard of before. But you know how sometimes you go into a bookshop and for whatever reason a book calls to you? You’ve got to follow those instincts! (I had this with Stoner by John Williams and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read!) Set in London in 1862 the novel tells the story of Sue Trinder, an orphan raised among petty thieves.
When I took this book up to the counter in the book shop the lady at the till RAVED about it. She gasped when she saw what I had chosen and confessed to me that she had cancelled many social plans in favour of staying at home to read this book and that she was jealous that I was only just encountering it for the first time. It’s bound to be amazing and I can’t wait to get stuck in!
The Book of Dust Volume Two: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
Last, and by no means least, we have the next instalment in the Book of Dust Trilogy. I grew up reading His Dark Materials and simply love the world of these books – I’ve re-read them many times and listened to the audiobooks. They hold a very dear place in my heart. This book sounds wonderful as it not only continues Malcolm’s story from the first novel, but it also accompanies Lyra as a young woman in Oxford.
Both Lyra and Malcolm must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search of what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.
Pullman so masterfully intertwines recognisable elements of our own world with magical, fantastical elements of the universe he has created, that it allows us to become fully absorbed and invested in these remarkable stories. I hope this instalment is as good as the last!
What a list! I think I’ve managed to pick out some wonderful reads here and I can’t wait to live with these books over the next few months. It’s interesting when I write them down and describe them all to recognise that I definitely have a preference for more historical settings, and for novels that explore darkness and magic. I had never really realised this before. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books before – I’d love to hear your thoughts, or if you have anything particularly exciting on your ‘To Be Read’ pile!