Thursday, December 31st, 2015
I started this year intending to record every book I read on Instagram. I used a hashtag (#Readin2015) and everything. It lasted a while, until a re-read of Persuasion in September. After that I just, sort of, forgot all about it. That’s not to say I forgot about reading at the beginning of September, just that the books I was reading suddenly became very niche and academic, some of which even I didn’t find interesting. And I forgot, a little bit. And so, at the end of the year, as I type there are six hours left of 2015, I thought I’d go through some of my favourite reads of the year. The ones that were on my shelves and not at uni or with the poor souls I’d almost thrown them at with excitement saying, “OMG you HAVE to read this book right this second it is FABULOUS!” Every one of these books is fabulous, even if some of them did leave me sobbing so much my nose bled.
So, find a pen and some paper and settle down. In no particular order, here is a selection of my favourite books from 2015:
The Secret History, Donna Tartt: I can thank my friend Olivia for introducing my to this. I’ve written about it before, here, so in the interests of brevity I’ll just say this: while I think most people I know read this for the *aesthetic* over plot, it sucks you right in. Classics students in Vermont go too far and the fall out is spectacular. You’ll read the last page and stare at the wall, mouth open, for a considerable amount of time before you can pull yourself together and back into the real world.
A Room With a View, E.M. Forster: This is one of my all time favourite books. I read it multiple times while I was in Italy this year. In fact, I bought an extra copy when I went to Florence, where the novel’s protagonist Lucy Honeychurch and assorted characters are introduced, for a day trip in March and my flatmate Valentine bought her own copy when we went on a sweltering June day. I can’t put my finger on exactly why this book is so perfect but it’s something to do with the characters and their flaws. No matter what they are, snobbishness; indecision; indiscretion, Forster treats them with kindness. His other novels may be better written, they may be more complex, but none are as compelling as A Room With a View and it’s flawed, wonderfully human characters.
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doeer: Of all the (probably) hundreds of books stacked precariously on shelves as I glance around my room, this is one of the most compelling, by far. I am someone who will make a valiant effort to get through any reading material put in front of me, and I could not put this book down. In fact I stayed up until 4am, way past my bedtime, so I could keep reading and find out what would become of Werner Pfennig, Marie-Laure Leblanc, and her father’s small act of resistance, which has far reaching consequences, during the German Occupation of France in the Second World War.
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton: This is one of those debut novels that gets talked about for months. It was also one of my first reads of the year, started as I was on the train back to university, and it’s stil seared onto my mind. The 18 year old protagonist, Nella, is married off to a man old enough to be her father and shipped off to 1686 Amsterdam. She’s given a dolls house replica of her new home by her husband and a ‘miniaturist’ begins to send her prophetic miniatures of household objects. I was gripped and ploughed through all 434 pages in a day and a half.
Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion, Jane Austen: I have read both of these books so often that my original copies are now held together with more sellotape and marmite than binding glue. Persuasion, in particular, has been my favourite for longer than I can remember. There’s little I can say that hasn’t been said before, except that regardless of what others may say their wit, humour, and warmth are eternally appealing even to the most cynical of readers.
Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, and Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding: Oh Bridget. Dearest Bridget. I first picked up these when I was about 12. My copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary was stolen from my mother’s shelves after my first encounter with the lovable, clumsy, oh so relatable Bridget in the film at a sleep over when I was in year 7. I fell in love and haven’t looked back since. It’s become even more a guide book and a life line as I’ve aged into my mid twenties and people in my Facebook feed are getting married (?!) and having children by choice not accident (?!?!) This year, over the last four days, I’ve read all three books once more. Bridget takes on adulthood, Smug-Marrieds, Singletondom and dating with such pizzazz that I dare anyone to not lover, even just a little bit. Who wouldn’t want to handle life like Bridget Jones?
Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James: This was an assigned, for class read which morphed into a pleasure read. I was skeptical at first as my experiences wth Austen inspired fan fiction haven’t exactly been great, *cough* Pride and Promiscuity *cough*. Most people just can’t capture the spirit of the stories they’re trying to emulate. James, however, does it perfectly. Ten years after Lizzie and Darcy got married and rode into the sunset their plans are put on hold by a murder in the woods of Pemberley. Not only has James captured a more mature, self confident Elizabeth but she’s captured a Darcy softened by marriage. It’s fascinating to read about two of my most beloved literary figures from a different, competent, perspective and in the end I couldn’t put the book down until a conclusion was reached. I wont give you any clues though, you’ll have to read it yourself.
What were your favourite books from 2015?
Monday, March 23rd, 2015
The more I try to remember my immediate reaction to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History the more I realise it was pure shock. Ten minutes of being struck dumb followed by “Oh. My. God. I need a drink.” on repeat. Incidentally, the first draft of this post, which I wrote an hour or so after finishing the book, was “Oh. My. God. I need a drink. Oh. My. God. I need a drink. Oh. My. God. I need a drink.” over and over again about 200 times, which Olivia pointed out was at least appropriate for The Secret History‘s subject matter.
It’s hard to know how to describe this book. Traumatic would be one word. Really, really traumatic. Intense would be another. Terrifying, certainly.
Tartt explores the depths of human behaviour in a way most people wouldn’t even begin to contemplate. Six students at the elite Hampden College in Vermont, under the considerable influence of their enigmatic Classics professor, push the boundaries of academia further than even the most dedicated of students would consider rational. This leads to mystery, intrigue, and even murder.
Despite the traumatic roller coaster of emotions it caused I still find myself recommending The Secret History to every other person I meet, which has to mean it was one of the best books I’ve read.