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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Favourite Books From 2013

Long time no speak, eh? All I can say is this blog was a success – I was using it to try and stream what I wanted to write about, to help me hone a ‘voice’, and, eventually, come August, I stopped writing blogs posts and got back to writing stories. I’m not sure what my 2014 blogging plans are, but no doubt I’ll be back when procrastination calls.

In the meantime – here are some of the best books I read in 2013. I’ve set them out in categories so you don’t have to read the whole thing (I like the sound of my own voice, I know)…just scroll down to whatever you fancy.


BOOKS I MEANT TO READ/PRETENDED TO HAVE READ AS A TEENAGER:

Life of Pi, The Great Gatsby, I Capture the Castle, The Catcher in the Rye, Noughts and Crosses series, Skellig.

The Catcher in the Rye and Noughts and Crosses were always out of the library, I never got around to The Great Gatsby, I thought I Capture the Castle was stupid (it is now one of my all time favourite books), and my sister put me off Skellig by telling me she was reading it in class and that it was really boring (it’s not, it’s fantastic).

Initially I didn’t read Life of Pi because I thought it was about MATHS…can you blame me? Back before it closed down I used to go and hang out at Borders after school. Life of Pi was always on the stand right by the entrance and I’M SURE the cover had weird mathsy symbols and stuff on it…having Googled though, I can’t find the cover I’m imagining so, you know, I probably made all this up so I could justify reading The Princess Diaries one more time. At university, a teacher recommended it to me solely because it was about an Indian boy…enough to put me off big time back then, oh how writing this blog has changed me!

If I’m honest I only read Life of Pi because it was 20p on Kindle (don’t get mad, I bought it despite owning a physical copy), but you should totally read it. In retrospect, teenage me would have LOVED it. While I hated Maths lessons, I was totally into RS and Philosophy. He should have been called Chi Rho or something…then I’d have been all over it. If you’re not into that sort of thing though, it is also about shipwrecks and tigers and cannibal islands…You should totally read it. And then watch the film – Suraj Sharma is excellent as Pi (and really hot).


FAVOURITE PICTURE BOOK: MICHAEL ROSEN’S SAD BOOK

This book changed my life. I would recommend this book a thousand times over. You can read what I wrote about it when I first read it here – it’s the second from last paragraph.


FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S BOOK: BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA

I’ve been meaning to read this since I saw the film in 2008 or something. It was everything I hoped it would be, but I didn’t realise so until I got to the end. It’s one of those crescendo-ing books where you think it’s ‘all right but nothing special’ all the way through, but you don’t realise how perfect every moment is until you finish and look back on it as a whole. I cried, obviously.


FAVOURITE YOUNG ADULT BOOK: I CAPTURE THE CASTLE

Everyone kept telling me to read this, and I just didn’t get why. IT WAS SO BORING. Then my boyfriend’s mum bought it for me for my birthday and I was forced to read it out of politeness…and I absolutely loved it. I can see why no one managed to convince me to plough on past the first few pages because, even months later, I can’t describe why I love it. Just read it, okay?


FAVOURITE BOOK YOU’VE PROBABLY NOT YET HEARD OF:  VIVIAN VERSUS THE APOCALYSPE

If I didn’t want to have a separate category for books that the people I know never seem to recognise, this book would probably have been listed under the previous ‘Best YA’ heading. Vivian Versus The Apocalypse was everything I could ever want from a Young Adult book. Since you may not have heard of this one yet, I’ll give you a quick summary: it’s set in an alternate evangelical America, and opens on the eve of the predicted Rapture. When Vivian gets home, she finds that her ‘Believer’ parents are missin (there are person-shaped holes left in their bedroom ceiling), and so, of course, it’s up to her to find them. What results is an unpredictably wonderful hybrid of road-trip and dystopian fiction. There’s a romance, but it’s not central to the plot; the author doesn’t talk down to the readers (seriously the book I read before this one described what Christmas crackers were in case the American readers didn’t get it…GOOGLE EXISTS FOR A REASON); and the main character is hilarious….like I said, what more could anyone want from YA? I might go and read it again right now.  

FAVOURITE NEW AUTHOR: JHUMPA LAHIRI

I was going to have sections for my favourite novel (The Namesake), and favourite short story collection (Interpreter of Maladies), but they actually ended up being by the same author.

I won’t lie: I hadn’t heard of Jhumpa Lahiri until I saw Mindy Kaling posting a picture of The Lowland on her Instagram. But whatever, this is apparently how I discover authors to love. When I was sixteen or so I discovered Kazuo Ishiguro because Emma Watson mentioned that The Remains of the Day was her favourite book in an interview. Don’t judge me.

Jhumpa Lahiri is now my favourite author. She writes with such precision about thoughts and ideas that are so familiar to me. Her throwaway details are so spot on – I’m torn between jealousy and over-the-top-fan-girl admiration:

By now Akash had forgotten the little Bengali Ruma had taught him when he was little. After he started speaking in full sentences English had taken over, and she lacked the discipline to stick to Bengali. Besides, it was one thing to coo at him in Bengali, to point to this or that and tell him the corresponding words. But it was another thing to be authoritative; Bengali had never been a language in which she felt like an adult.” – Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri

Argh I hate and love her so much. 


FAVOURITE NON FICTION: BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS

There wasn’t any narrowing down involved here since this was the only non-fiction I read in 2013, but it’s also the best non-fiction book about India I’ve ever read. Ever, ever, ever. If I was only allowed to choose one of these books to recommend to everyone I know, one that had to try and suit as many people’s reading tastes as possible, it would be this one.  None of the romanticising and exotifying blahblahblah you come to except from books about India, just empathically told stories about real lives.  



There you go - until next time anyway! What books did you love in 2013?
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