The definitive list to great reading: How many have you read?
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to discovering new and exciting authors, I rely on two sources. The first is Amazon, which prompts me towards new finds based on the books that I have already bought or downloaded.
And the second is the kindness of friends, those like-minded souls who call me up excitedly to tell me about that ‘brilliant new author’ that I simply must read. And honest to God, neither source has let me down to date.
So today, in the spirit of paying it forward, I am sharing with you my list of the most amazing books I have read over the last year. I can’t recommend them enough!
* All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I had my doubts about this one. It is set during the Second World War. Its two main protagonists are a blind French girl and a young German boy who is a member of the Hitler Youth. It didn’t sound very promising at all. But I trusted the word of a good friend and bought it. And I am very glad I did. The story is amazing in itself but it is the lyrical quality of the writing that draws you in. Acutely observed, beautifully articulated, this is a book that will stay with you.
* The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker: Originally written in French, the release of its English edition was marked by rather sniffy reviews. But it is telling that even those reviewers who carped that there was nothing special about the book confessed that they had, nevertheless, found it gripping. And they were right about that at least: this is a cracking good read. A young author struggling with writer’s block goes to visit his mentor and old professor, when the body of a young girl who disappeared 33 years ago is discovered on the professor’s property. Buried alongside her is a manuscript copy of the novel that made the professor, Harry Quebert, famous. So, did he do it? Or didn’t he? The young author grapples with these questions as he attempts to save his saviour.
* Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little: If you liked Gone Girl, you will love this. The ‘dear daughter’ in the story is Janie Jenkins, who is convicted of her mother’s murder and sentenced to life only to be set free on a technicality after ten years. Is she guilty or innocent? Even Janie doesn’t know for sure. So, she sets out to find out what really happened on the night her mother died, dodging a media machine determined to hunt her down and a crime blogger who is obsessed with her guilt. This one will keep you awake all night.
* You by Caroline Kepnes: This is a story about obsessive love, told from the point of view of the stalker, a bookstore manager who fixates on a young student who visits his bookstore. Sounds appalling, right? And yes, on the face of it, it certainly is. But such is the skill with which Caroline Kepnes depicts a sick mind that by the end of the story you find yourself immersed in the world of the narrator, in which the usual moral codes don’t apply. And even more shockingly, you begin to see things from his perspective, even though you know in your rational mind that he is pure evil.
* The Widow by Fiona Barton: Written by a former journalist, this is a book that is deceptive in its simplicity. The story unfolds through the viewpoints of different characters: the widow (of the title) whose recently deceased husband was once accused of abducting a child; the reporter who tries to persuade the widow to sell her story to her newspaper; and the police detective who was investigating the case of the missing child. The constantly shifting perspective is unsettling, especially as you discover that nothing is quite what it seems.
* Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans: This is one of the quirkiest books I’ve read in a long time. Set during the period of the Second World War (honestly, what is this recent obsession with World War II?), it tells the story of a lonely orphan being brought up by an eccentric godmother, whose faculties are rapidly declining. After her death, he is evacuated to the country where he is taken in by yet another eccentric woman. The bond between these two damaged creatures evolves slowly as they become partners in petty crime, and create a dysfunctional family all of their own.
* The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob: This is yet another tale of Indian immigrants in the West, struggling with dislocation, straining against family ties, and trying to do the best they can as they navigate the tightrope between two cultures. But don’t let that put you off. Mira Jacob has a lightness of touch which makes Jhumpa Lahiri seem wooden and clunky. This novel, spanning continents and generations, sparkles and shines with wit and humour even as it shines the spotlight on familial relations and the immigrant experience.
* The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood: A psychological thriller clearly inspired by the Madeleine McCann (the young British girl who was kidnapped from a Portuguese resort a few days short of her fourth birthday while her parents had dinner in a nearby restaurant) case, this is a book that will draw you in from the first page and then resolutely refuse to let go until you have galloped to the denouement. You have been warned.
From HT Brunch, April 3, 2016
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