If you haven’t noticed, my borrowed book club has recently hit a wall. The next book I intended to read was Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. I couldn’t get into it. I even tried to read it on the train, the place I’m most productive, and I found myself distracted. The words rolled past my eyes and didn’t register in my head. I apologise to the ever-present Katie, who lent me that book, because I can’t write more than this about it. Since I should get past this slump, I’m writing a post of recommendations. These are the books I would borrow to you.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
Perhaps an obvious choice, but this is my favourite book. I was twelve and I was awkward and I was in an English class with only one person I talked to. One day, the teacher looked at us and told us that we weren’t going to read the recommended book for our ability, instead she’d let us read a classic. Every word is still in her voice, and every word told me that I was capable.
My emotional attachment to this book isn’t what makes it great. It’s a classic that’s readable, real and emotional. It’s a refreshing break from Bronte, but falls into the same category. It’s a seasonal novel: every word pulls you into the childish nostalgia of muggy Maycomb summers. Its comments on racial injustice are pertinent as ever, and do not ignore America’s shameful history. Atticus Finch is a wonderful literary hero – he’s an understanding father, he’s accepting and he has strong morals.
Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife
A recurring theme in this post: I studied this collection of poems. As I had to know everything about fortysomething of her poems for an exam, Carol Ann Duffy was once my mortal enemy. However, we reached her World’s Wife poems, suddenly it was hard to deny her genius. Each poem is the voice of a woman behind her more famous male counterpart: Queen Kong, Mrs. Midas and Mrs. Lazarus. It’s a funny feminist triumph.
Each character has a very distinctive voice, affected by the consequences of the man who defines her. Mrs. Midas sounds like she’s gossiping over brunch as she rambles about her difficult life, whilst Mrs. Darwin is short and smart. It’s so clever, it subverts the idea of history so well. It’s a very quick read, and her poems have so many different meanings that every reader gains something totally different from her writing. Borrow this book and tell me what you think it means, because I’m sure we’d have different things to say.
George Orwell’s 1984
This was required reading for my journalism course last year, and I regret not reading it sooner. In a world where the dystopian novel has been used too many times to count, where every trope is old by now, this novel takes it back to the basics. It has every dystopian trope – the forbidden love affair, the unsuspecting protagonist and of course the overbearing dictatorship. It’s less enjoyable because it’s been done so many times by now, and honestly the ending isn’t even that good.
The reason I would recommend this novel is for its pertinence. In January of 2017, following Kellyanne Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts”, 1984 flew off the shelves, selling out on Amazon. It is vital that we read this today, especially the essay at the end of the novel. Orwell creates a society who are controlled by language – the meanings of words are stripped and replaced with Newspeak. It’s something we need to understand in today’s world, because what a certain American President defines as fake news, is not what fake news is. He stops us from listening to each other. We can’t let a leader redefine the fundamental part of society – communication.
Let me know if you’ve read any, or if I’ve convinced you to borrow them! I would love to hear what you thought.