A book-buying spree gives me a massive rush – I love knowing I have a pile of neatly stacked new reads waiting for me. I never get out of a bookshop with fewer than three books, so I have to give myself a stern talking to if I feel the itch – woebetide a need to shop on Amazon, it’s a killer.
When I set this blog up I thought it would be a big outlet for my passion for books, but, weirdly, that hasn’t happened. The wonders of everyday life with kids have got in the way. So this post is overdue. I want to break the drought and release my inner bookworm.
For me, three things about books get me going. Firstly, the thrill of a juicy review or passionate recommendation – all that potential enjoyment just waiting for me to get online or down to the bookshop. Secondly, the exhilarating rush of the ‘ooo, I’m going to LOVE this’ feeling I get when a first page hooks me, line and sinker. And lastly, savouring the end, a friend I don’t want to leave, re-reading the back cover, the reviews and feeling uplifted. Bliss.
So, I think I’d like to share my favourite reads of the year so far, for me and with the kids, plus my most anticipated to-reads. In return, I would love to hear yours, and I might just do this again every so often to keep my bookish juices flowing.
For me then, of the books I’ve read this year, three stand out (see Goodreads in the sidebar for all the books I’ve read this year):
In third place comes The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows. I asked my book group girls about the books they read before I joined their wine-merry band, and indulged my favourite bad habit of going straight onto Amazon and ordering the lot. Retail therapy at its absolute best. This was my hands-down favourite for beautifully written, light enjoyment. Deliciously quirky characters, a lovely central love story and an all-round feel good movie waiting to happen.
In second place, I put Barack Obama’s Dreams of my Father. I noticed it forgotten, gathering dust, on my bookshelf, so I took it on holiday for a try. It was great – had he written it recently I would have been quite sceptical of its authenticity. But given he wrote it before he went into politics, let alone ran for President, I found its honest, lyrical, grounded exploration of identity, race and faith fascinating. The trip to Kenya lost the observational element of the first half but I still found it an engaging story of roots, family, tradition. I only wish I’d read it when I bought it, as I would have followed his Presidency much more closely. Maybe I’ll get a chance with his second run.
But in first place by a country mile is Caitlin Moran’s roaringly funny call to arms for women everywhere, How To Be A Woman. I’ve only previously heard the *f* word used so freely in all its guises in team meetings with the video games developers I worked with a few years back. As a communications person used to the corporate tone of banks, that was certainly an eye-opener, and Ms Moran’s style was just as much fun. Content-wise, it wasn’t so much that her views were new to me, it was more that she articulated views I’d had a vague sense of disquiet about but never consciously put together – like her views on porn or body hair. I’ve never laughed so hard, with such horror, as at her first pube story. I don’t think I would have survived her family life, I can tell you that much.
For the kids, joint favourites between all three of us (me, Little H (nearly 6) and Littlest H (3.5)) are all a bit silly, but, hey, if you can’t have a bit of silliness in kids books, what’s life for?
In third place, Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Dreadful Spell, by Kristina Stephenson. We borrowed this from the library this week, and it’s silly, silly, silly. I’m in admiration of Ms Stephenson’s imagination, and the stinkiness went down well, particularly with Little H (probably a little bit too sophisticated for Littlest H to get quite as much from it).
In second place, Mrs Armitage On Wheels by Quentin Blake. I love this book. I love Quentin Blake’s illustrations. The kids LOVE the silliness of it and we all shout PAHEEURGH at top volume, every time. A classic.
In first place has to be Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants, by Giles Andreae. Hilarious, and I love Korky Paul’s illustrations. It’s my mum’s favourite too, and none of us have tired of it since Littlest H got it for his birthday in April.
Finally, my to-read shelf. It’s a bit bursting after a browse in Foyles and fateful reading of the weekend paper review section, but top of the list are: Men and Gods (Myths and Legends of the Ancient Greeks) by Rex Warner (yes, that was a Foyles one – I was entranced by the intellectual styling of a stand of New York Book Review books); The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (I’m excited by this one); Swimming Home by Deborah Levy and Memoirs of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge (yes, another Foyles).
So what are your fave reads at the moment? Do help me feed my habit with some recommendations. I could do with a(nother) good reason to go mad on Amazon (shh, don’t tell Mr H). And in the meantime, happy reading!