By some mysterious circumstance (not naming any names *cough* coronavirus *cough*) a lot of us find ourselves in a position where we have suddenly gained a few hours back in time we’d usually spend commuting. Now if you’re anything like me you’ll feel the need to fill that time with ALL THE FUN THINGS so what better time to finish off the blog post I’ve been writing forever.
If you don’t know, I work in publishing and read quite widely. Because of this, I get a lot of requests for recommendations for books so I keep a note on my phone for different age ranges that I send to anyone asking. I hope there is something here for you!
1. Circe by Madeleine Miller
The second Greek themed novel by Miller, this has all the heart of The Song of Achilles and more. Focussing on Circe, daughter of God of the sun Helios and a water nymph who has the forbidden power of magic, it dives into some of the most well known myths from the perspective of a woman born into a man’s world.
Last year was an excellent year for tales of Troy told from a woman’s perspective but this was by far my favourite. It requires no knowledge of the story of Troy (although is admittedly more enjoyable if you can geek out about every tiny character like I did) as it is packed full of adventure and witchcraft, love and betrayal, family feuds and banishment. This is a gripping read from start to finish.
2. Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling! by Emer McLasaght and Sarah Breen
Aisling (pronounced ASH-ling) was created by the authors to represent a certain type of Irish girl and became a popular character in a Facebook group as everyone could identify with some part of her. When they released a novel based on the character it was a massive success in Ireland but she isn’t just relatable to Irish girls, but women all over the world.
Aisling is 28 and lives at home in a small town commuting to her comfortable, if quite boring, job in Dublin everyday. When her relationship breaks down she is forced to reevaluate everything she values in her life and moves to Dublin to begin a new chapter in her life.
This book is a laugh out loud, cry into your pillow book that isn’t as light and frothy as it looks, it is full of heart. And the best part is, it’s the first in a trilogy so if you like it you can dive right in to the other tw3.o!
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
One for the magic lovers amongst us (although so incredibly popular the chances are you’ve read it already) this book is magical realism at its finest. Even if you aren’t a fan of fantasy I strongly recommend this as it is excellently written and strikes the perfect balance between believable and completely and utterly insane.
The Night Circus arrives at night with no warning. It opens at twilight and closes at dawn. Steeped in magic and wonder, it is a circus like no other. Behind the scenes two young magicians are involved in a competition. Neither of them know what the rounds are, what the rules are how to win but they both know they have no choice but to play.
4. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This would be a pretty terrible list if I didn’t include the book that I devoured on Christmas Day in one sitting that has been in the top 10 books for months. This isn’t just a book of motivational quotes and pretty pictures, it is a work of art. Artist Charlie Mackesy created a book that is so utterly meaningful, I strongly believe everyone should own it, read it and cherish it.
5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Viann and Isabelle are as different as sisters can be, Isabelle living in the hustle and bustle of Paris and Viann preferring her quiet family life in the countryside, but they have always been close. When World War 2 breaks out everything changes. Viann’s husband is sent off to fight so Isabelle moves in with her to keep her company. Soon, their very different opinions of the war drive a rift between them that will test their relationship to the limit.
This was such an unexpected hit for me. The cover (not the one I’ve linked) looked like a saga book which isn’t really my cup of tea but I’d been recommended it so I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did as it ended up one of my favourite books. The two sisters are brilliantly written and I was rooting for both of them throughout.
6. Burial Rights by Hannah Kent
Burial Rights was shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction which was what first made me pick it up. It is a retelling of the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman in Iceland in 1829 who is sentenced to death for the murder of her lover. Instead of being sent to a prison, she is sent to live on the remote farm of the district officer. His family are forced to adjust to life with a convicted criminal in their home. The only person who seems prepared to give her a chance is the young assistant priest. As Agnus’ time there progresses, those around her realise she is not all she seems.
7. Almost Adults by Ali Pantony
I was gifted a copy of this book by a friend who has excellent taste in books and it did not disappoint. It follows the lives of 4 friends in their late 20s as they try to navigate their way into adulthood. What I love about it is that it is friendships that are at the forefront of this book instead of romantic relationships. The four characters are so well written that I could relate to all of them and was rooting for them all throughout.
8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This sat on my shelves for a couple of years before I got round to reading it and I am not kicking myself for not reading it earlier. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015, an accolade that was very well-deserved in my eyes.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father. Blind since the age of 6, she has learnt to adapt to the world around her through learning her Paris neighbourhood off by heart. Werner is a german orphan working in a mine. When he finds and fixes a broken radio he hears about a wonderful club called Hitler Youth. Is this his way out of a life spent underground? It seems too good to be true. When world war two breaks out the contrasting worlds of Marie-Laure and Werner are turned upside down.
This is more than just a book about war. This is a moving tribute to people trying to be good to each other even in the midst of turmoil.
9. The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary
This book is currently top of Amazon Charts’ Most-Sold: Fiction chart and it is easy to see why. Aside from the obvious contributing factor that the e-book is currently 99p on Amazon, this is a feel-good bit of uplit fiction perfect for the current climate.
When Tiffy’s relationship ends she is forced to find a new place to live but that isn’t easy when she is working in publishing in London. She is starting to despair when she comes across a cheap flat that seems too good to be true. The catch? The current resident works night shifts in a hospital and will be sleeping there during the day.
They share a bed… they share a flat… they have never met… what could possibly go wrong?
10. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The first in the Winternight trilogy, I bought this book in a hurry on my way through an airport so my decision to pick it up was based purely on the cover. It looked magicky and wintery which admittedly made it an odd choice to take on a summer holiday to Cyprus but it was a perfect bit of magic escapism to lose myself in.
Vasya lives on the edge of the dark woods in northern Russia. She has heard folklore tales about house spirits, magic and the Winter King seeking a wild maiden since she was a child but to her they aren’t just stories. She is the only one who can see the house spirits guarding her home, and if they are real… maybe everything else is too?