‘Sweetbitter’ Stephanie Danler
I never read a more book more than once but Sweetbitter is an exception. The first time I read it was during A-Levels, and while I was stuck at school, sat at my desk and cramming for exams, it would transport me to another much more exciting and sophisticated world. The second time I read it I sat with highlighter so that I could refer back to my favourite bits at any time. Her writing is so sensory that you can almost see, hear, smell and taste everything that the protagonist does.
About a glass of wine:
‘I thought it would be sweet. I thought I tasted honey, or something like peaches. But then it was so dry it felt like someone had pierced me.’
‘Neighbors’ Raymond Carver
‘The Stones were always going out for dinner, or entertaining at home, or traveling about the country…’
Admittedly, this is only a short story, from a collection called Will You Please Be Quiet Please. Raymond Carver has the ability to turn what we think of as mundane and un-newsworthy into an enticing tale. After reading one of his stories you will feel romantic about brushing your teeth, feeding the dogs or taking the bins out. Neighbors is about a couple who both become independently fascinated by the people who live next door, who lead a much more glamorous and jet-set lifestyle than themselves. The other collection I love by the same author is What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I think short stories are great if you’re trying to get into reading but finding it difficult to commit to a big novel. Oops I’m talking about more than one!
‘Sense & Sensibility’ Jane Austen
“The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
Sense & Sensibility is a classic. It’s based around two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who, as the title indicates, possess differing personality traits. If you struggle with Austen’s literature the BBC did a great 3-part series with almost identical lines to the book. There’s also a film starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Unlike a lot of the older literature Austen has elected each of the female characters in Sense and Sensibility a distinctive personality, a voice and a purpose. Elinor’s calm, rational and trust-worthy manner paired with Marriane’s exaggerated sensibility and refusal to join in the social masquerade of society provide a breath of fresh air to the patriarchal presentation of women in history.
‘Never Let Me Go’ Kazuo Ishiguro
I first read this book when I was 14 or 15 as it was part of my GCSE syllabus. Obviously because it was a book I was told to read and not one I chose myself I was reluctant to admit how much I enjoyed it… I then used it again for my A level coursework, and it even found its way into my degree syllabus as well. It is one of those books that changes with you; for example when I first read it I related to a lot of it, but then when I re read it as an adult, I related to it in a whole new way. I honestly think the way that Ishiguro so realistically depicts childhood and friendships is outstanding and the novel draws you in from the very first page and unfolds so beautifully and tragically.
If you haven’t read it yet, you should. It is moving and touching but thought provoking and takes the meaning of a dystopia to a whole new level.
‘The Vanity Fair Diaries’ Tina Brown / ‘Inside Vogue’ Alexandra Shulman
I have grouped these two novels together as although they are about completely different women and set about 30 years apart, they are both diaries written by two of the fashion publication world’s most powerful and influential women. Tina Brown and Alexandra Shulman have had fairly similar careers, as editors of Vanity Fair and Vogue and while I personally remembered a lot of what Shulman wrote and could picture what she was writing about (the novel is set in 2016), Brown’s is set in the late 80s, a time long before I was born. Tina Brown’s novel is what I imagine ‘The Great Gatsby’ would look like if Fitzgerald had lived in the 80s. It is magical, glamorous and full of celebrity cameos (from Donal Trump to Lady Di!)
‘The Circle’ Dave Eggers
Published in 2013, ‘The Circle’ tells the story of a woman who lands a job at a fancy, hi-tech company where social networking and work are synonymous and what initially appears to be a wonderful work place, slowly reveals it’s darker nature. While the film adaptation certainly does not do this novel justice, I have chosen to feature ‘The Circle’ as it is potentially one of the most terrifying dystopias I have ever read. Without giving too much away, you will find yourself drawn in completely through it’s easy to follow story line and the fact that the narrative isn’t broken down into chapters, instead it just continuously flows.
Caitlin Moran – ‘More Than a Woman’
I have read many of Caitlin Moran’s books over the years and have absolutely adored them all. She really provides amazing insight into the world of women as she explores the importance of feminism, raises awareness of sexism and normalises various everyday female “problems”. I found this book incredibly inspiring and comforting as Caitlin allows for female readers to understand and learn more about the above topics. She raises questions about “how to be a good feminist” and writes about being a normal, average woman in a society of sexism and inequality. It is an amazing gateway into the world of feminism which is accessible and friendly.
Adam Kay – ‘This is Gonna Hurt’
WOW! What a book! If I had to sum this book up in three words, they would be… Hilarious, heartbreaking and humbling. Adam Kay writes in “diary entry” format of his life as a Junior Doctor. He comments on the highs and lows of his medical career and the incredible, shocking, scary things he encountered. It was truly fascinating. When people talk about books and refer to them as “page-turners”, this would definitely fall into that category. I was absolutely captivated by every single word. I cried and I laughed multiple times…like actually sobbed and belly laughed. After the year from hell (AKA Covid-19), I think most UK readers would agree that the NHS has worked tirelessly and we are incredibly grateful. But this book just made me even more thankful for the work NHS staff do.
Sara Pascoe – ‘Sex Power Money’
Many of you may have heard of Sara as a comedian and TV personality. When I heard about her book, I was so excited to read more from her. In this book she provides her in-depth opinions and research into gender inequalities, sex, sexism, feminism and stigmas around sex industry workers. Whilst she discusses serious subject matters, she writes with wit and humour throughout. It is incredibly insightful and raises interesting controversial social debates. It is not one for the easily offended or faint-hearted as there is a fair amount of “fruity language” but it is definitely a “must-read”.
Kate Allinson & Kay Featherstone – ‘Pinch of Nom – Quick and Easy’
After embarking on a major lifestyle change and weight loss program to better my health, I decided to purchase this recipe book. It has rave reviews and the authors also have a fabulous podcast called ‘The Secret Ingredient’;I loved listening to it due to their general approach to healthy living and for amazing recipe ideas. Current faves include their ‘Mushy Pea Curry’ (trust me, it may sound odd but it is AMAZING) and their ‘Tuna Melt Stuffed Peppers’. All of their recipes are easy to make, low-cost, super filling and not at all time-consuming to prepare. I would really recommend this one for anyone looking for some new ideas!