I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time reading during social isolation. Reading has always been one of my great loves – I remember my parents reading to me; when I was old enough, I read to my Dad every night before bed. My husband is also an avid reader and we are proudly raising two bookworms ourselves – although one day we really are going to need a bigger house, just for all the books we own!
During social isolation, one of my dear friends – also an avid reader – tagged me in one of those “Facebook challenges”, to post seven books that l love; no comments, no reviews, just a picture of the covers.
Firstly, I struggled to get the list down to just seven books! And secondly, that “no comments” bit is just not me, so here is my list of seven books with comments about why I chose them.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of the greatest books of all time. This is a book that changed me as a person – as in, I felt different after reading it. Seeing the Deep South of the 1930s through the innocent eyes of Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch is astonishing. The narrative captures so much of a child’s world, including mad dogs and spooky houses; but also the US justice system of the time and how her father, Atticus Finch, points his moral compass in the right direction. It deals with issues that America is still grappling with today. Many lawyers consider Atticus Finch to be their hero and indeed his character in the book – and in the movie, played by Gregory Peck – is one of the most recognisable from American literature. If you’ve never read this book, I can’t imagine a more important time to pick it up and get into it.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This book – indeed, the whole series of ‘Anne’ books – was my most beloved book as a child. I loved Anne Shirley so dearly and I wanted to be her so much! My longing for red hair has never really faded. The imaginative, talkative Anne has a firm place in my heart and even as an adult, I have often returned to the world of Avonlea to relive Anne’s adventures. It’s my hope that young girls everywhere still love these books. Despite all of Anne’s struggles and scrapes, there’s a joy to the series that will stay with you.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Ok, so obviously, the entire Harry Potter series is a completely involving, magical world that I feel should be compulsory reading for everyone! But it was the final book in the series that really captured my heart. I once had a teacher who said any book that makes you cry or laugh out loud is a winner. I cried buckets reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I still cry every time I re-read it. Harry is finally facing his fate in this book and it’s not an easy path. Every hero has their moments of self-doubt and Harry has plenty of them here, dealing with loss, after loss, after loss. If you’re looking for a novel about the importance of friendship and loyalty; how a small hero can overcome a big villain; and about how we should never really give up, then Harry Potter is for you. I was so happy when my own children were old enough to read the series and I know that like me, they’ll be lifelong fans of Harry, Ron and Hermione. We loved the movies too, but the world JK Rowling created in the books is so much richer and more detailed.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I’m a huge fan of former US First Lady, Michelle Obama. Smart, classy, funny – she’s everything the modern woman should be! But how did she get there? What was it in her life that shaped her character and made her who she is today? This is her life story and it’s fascinating, funny, sad, sometimes infuriating. For those of us looking at life from a privileged – ie white – position, this memoir is an invaluable glimpse at how lucky we are and how the system is really stacked against people of colour. Mrs Obama’s stories of meeting her husband and how his rise to the presidency affected her and their daughters is amazing. I loved every word and I hope that one day I might get to hear her speak in person.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
From real life to complete fiction! When I first read this novel, it was released in Australia as “Cross Stitch”, although it has now been re-named to tie-in with the American name of the book and the TV series that goes with it. At the end of World War II, English nurse Claire Randall steps through a stone circle in the Scottish highlands and travels back in time 200 years – almost straight into the arms of a handsome highland warrior named Jamie Fraser. I would definitely not classify this book as a “bodice ripper” but there’s plenty of romance along with historical action and adventure. The book is told from Claire’s perspective and she is a fantastically outspoken, strong female character. I’ll freely admit the character of Jamie is my ideal fictional husband, as I’m sure he is for many women! This is the first in the Outlander series and each book gets better and better as you go along. Just be warned, if you get into this series it’s a big commitment – I’m currently waiting on Ms Gabaldon to finish book number nine. Plus there’s also a series of smaller novels focussing on one of the secondary characters. If you’re looking for escape, this is it.
A Court of Thorn and Roses; A Court of Mist and Fury; A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas
Another series – and no, I couldn’t separate these! I’m a bit of a latecomer to the world of Sarah J Maas. Her first novels were the Throne of Glass series, which I’ve since also read and adored. This trilogy has everything I love – strong female characters, magic, adventure, romance and most importantly, absolutely bloody gripping reading! The books are set in a fantasy world where the realms of the Fae are separated from the world of humans by a magical wall. Our heroine, young huntress Feyre Archeron, kills a faery and is drawn into the dangerous world of the Fae. These are not cutie pie Tinkerbell type fairies – they are beautiful, murderous, immortal Fae. There were times reading this trilogy when I was actually holding my breath, racing through the chapter so I could find out what happened. This is classified as YA fiction, but it’s definitely not for young readers; I would say 16 and above. There’s also a fourth novella, called A Court of Frost and Starlight, which is pretty much an extended epilogue for the trilogy, and I am hopeful of more books to come in this series.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
Brisbane author and Walkley Award-winning reporter Trent Dalton is probably the nicest person in Australian journalism. We used to work at The Courier-Mail at the same time, although his talents far outstrip my own. He has a unique way of seeing people and his work is always a joy to read. Boy Swallows Universe is set in Brisbane in the 1980s and indeed, anyone who has lived in this city will recognise it. The novel is partly inspired by Trent Dalton’s childhood, which was marred by domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and contact with Brisbane’s criminal element.
This coming of age story about main character Eli Bell is an instant Australian classic – heartbreaking, joyous, funny and magical. Any review I could write would never do it justice. Pick up a copy of this book today and enjoy Trent Dalton’s astonishing talent.