I really enjoy reading fiction books, and like most people I go through phases of reading a lot and then not very much for a while. I really would like to read more than I do at the moment but I guess as I get more pregnant and am able to get out less I might find more time for reading…
I log the books I read on the Goodreads website – it’s very handy for keeping track of what books I’ve read and I give them a rating out of 5 to remind me what I thought of them. I don’t tend to write reviews because a lot of the reviews on the website are from people who understand what makes good literature much more than I do. I have to admit that I read books in quite a ‘shallow’ way – I like a good plot and characters I can relate to in some way!
Anyway, here are some of my favourites, in no particular order.
A classic. As I was reading this book I thought it was fairly run-of-the-mill and uninteresting, until a massive plot twist about halfway through! (although I’m sure everyone else already knows what that is) After that I was gripped and couldn’t put it down. A great story that really draws you in.
The Book Thief
I only read this book quite recently and I’m so glad that I did. My husband thought it was very depressing, but I thought it was a very imaginative take on a subject that has been written about countless times (WWII). The story is based around a girl called Liesel who lives near Munich with foster parents and covers the build up to the Second World War in that place. I enjoy books that have been written from the point of view of a child – there is an innocence about the way they see things that turn awful events into something much more objective. The characters are wonderful and well-rounded and the plot keeps you guessing right up to the end. You may well need a hanky at the end though!
I read for a bit of escapism and I do enjoy a good piece of chick lit from time to time. There is a lot of bad chick lit out there but this is my favourite from the genre. The book is based around the premise of two friends who take it in turns to plan a weekend based on consecutive letters of the alphabet. It’s just a very sweet book and quite predictable but very enjoyable. It’s one of those books where you know you will have a smile on your face after reading it (for the same reaction, I’d also recommend anything by Cecelia Ahern).
I was a bit apprehensive about reading The Help because I thought it would be depressing but it’s anything but! A very funny book that doesn’t shirk from the issues surrounding coloured women living in the USA in the 1960s. I loved the characters, some of whom were larger than life, and the plot really drew me in. It’s based in a small town in Mississippi and focusses on a group of young women and their hired help who look after their homes and their children. The plot revolves around one woman who returns from university and becomes interested in the hired help’s point of view. I won’t say much more about the plot except that it’s great and you should read this book! A few people have asked me whether I liked the film, having loved the book so much and I really do. It’s a pretty faithful translation of the book to screen and the actresses in it really bring the whole thing to life. But read the book first!
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Another great book about World War II, this time focussing on the impact that it had on the Greek Islands, which were first occupied by the Italians and then the Germans. I studied this at A-level at school and fell in love with it then and my opinion hasn’t changed since! Again, a funny book in parts and very sad in others with great characters. I know a lot of people who started reading this book and gave up because the chapters jump around a lot and it isn’t always immediately clear who you are following in each one (especially at the beginning). But please persevere – at about 1/3 of the way through the book it all starts to tie together and after that it’s absolutely brilliant. When I first read this book it was the first time I had read anything like it (especially in terms of writing style) and I really enjoyed the imaginativeness of it. (Btw, I wouldn’t bother with the film version which is very different from the book)
The Shadow of the Wind
This is one of the few books that both I and my husband have very much enjoyed. The plot circles around Daniel, who lives in Barcelona in the 1940s. Daniel is taken to the Library of Forgotten Books by his father and told he can take one book. He picks one at random (The Shadow of the Wind) and enjoys it so he tries to find out more about the author. But as he starts looking into it, shadowy characters start to pop up and it becomes clear that he’s got himself involved in something. This is a great mystery book which really draws you in as Daniel gets deeper and deeper into the puzzle of the author.
The Time Traveller’s Wife
I think the reason why I love this book so much is that it is such an imaginative concept. Henry is a time traveller. He doesn’t know why, but every now and again he gets pulled into another place and time – mostly points in his own life or that of his wife Clare. When he arrives he’s naked (his clothes lie on a floor somewhere in the present) and generally has no idea where he is or what the date is. According to the book, it’s a genetic condition and there’s not a lot he can do about it. The book is really a romance between Henry and Clare (who he met after time travelling when he was in his 30s and she was under 10) and follows their lives together. My husband didn’t enjoy this book anywhere near as much as me as in parts it is really sad, whereas I think I love it because Henry and Clare are both very ordinary and relatable but are in this extraordinary situation. Again, I do quite like the film, but definitely read the book first!
Pride and Prejudice
Like many people, my first exposure to Pride and Prejudice was the 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle which prompted me to read the book afterwards. And the TV drama is so faithful to the book that I feel like I’m watching it when I’m reading the book, so it’s very hard to separate the two in my mind! However you see it, you can’t escape Jane Austen’s wit and great eye for a story. The romance blossoms beautifully (at different times on both sides) and is interlaced with dramatic events and side stories galore but you know it’s going to work out in the end. This book has inspired many modern romances (such as Bridget Jones’ Diary – another great read) and is a classic. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a go – it may have been written a couple of hundred years ago but the language is still very accessible and readable (if a little sexist at times!).
So those are some of my favourite books. Writing this has made me want to re-read most of them! I am aware that my tastes are very mainstream and you may have read all of these books already. Did you like them? Do you have any recommendations for me based on this list? I’m always looking to discover new favourites!
Thanks for reading!