Five books I would recommend to everyone
I’m often asked for book recommendations, and I love hearing that people have enjoyed books I’ve suggested…
I read quite a lot of different genres, so I can usually come up with a couple of suggestions for people depending on their preferred genre, but there are a few books I am constantly recommending…
I Am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes)
What’s it about? I was recommended this book a few years ago and I’ve read it several times since. I Am Pilgrim is an espionage thriller, it’s pretty long book, and very ambitious but it is brilliant, terrifying and completely gripping. Pilgrim is a codename for a man who was once an intelligence agent and led a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before retiring, he wrote a book on forensic pathology, deemed to be the authority on the subject. He is then called upon by an NYPD detective to help solve a case, a case where someone has used his book to commit the perfect, untraceable murder. What starts off as a murder turns into a race for Pilgrim to save America from an unknown man who is planning to commit mass murder. The story takes the reader from New York to Mecca, to the Hindu Kush mountains and to deserted ruins in Turkey.
Perfect for: Fans of crime books, thrillers and spy novels.
“The world doesn’t change in front of your eyes, it changes behind your back.”
The French Lieutenant’s Woman (John Fowles)
What’s it about? The story explores the relationship between Charles, a gentleman and amateur naturalist, and Sarah Woodruff, the ‘Woman’, a former governess. Charles is engaged to Ernestina, but finds himself drawn to Sarah. Written in 1969, the novel follows the traditional conventions of Victorian literature. There is a great deal of focus on the effects of society on the character’s awareness of themselves. A lot of attention is drawn to the contrast between Sarah, an independent woman and the stereotypical male characters. I love how the narrator appears throughout the story, intervening and weaving the story together. The omniscient voice of the narrator often brings the reader back to topics of interest from the period, including Darwin’s theories and the works of Thomas Hardy.
Perfect for: Fans of historical fiction, Victorian and feminist literature, and postmodernism.
“They looked down on her; and she looked up through them.”
The Martian (Andy Weir)
What’s it about? Mark Watney is an astronaut who was on a mission to Mars with his crew. A series of events lead to him being stranded there, believed dead, and he has to figure out how to communicate with Earth, and survive on a planet alone. I actually bought the audiobook to this once I’d read it, and often listen to it to fall asleep. There is something so wonderful about this book, and I find it absolutely fascinating. Andy Weir studied orbital mechanics, astronomy and the history of manned spaceflight in order to make this book as realistic as possible. It’s also a very funny book, and a book I can read (and listen to) over and over again. The film was released a couple of years ago, and I personally think it is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen.
Perfect for: Fans of sci-fi, space and comedy.
“Maybe I’ll post a consumer review: ‘Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.’”
Reasons to Stay Alive (Matt Haig)
What’s it about? This book is a memoir about Matt Haig’s depressive disorder. relatable, tough and heartbreaking but ultimately it is positive and uplifting, exploring how to make the most of every day and how to feel alive. It is a book I feel that everyone should read. It is not a long book, but it is a book I wish went on for longer. There are conversations between past and present Matt and imagined conversations with depression. Depression can be a very difficult thing to explain, but Reasons to Stay Alive does it extremely well. The sections are short and manageable, and I know from personal experience that when my anxiety is bad and I’m struggling to concentrate, short sections are ideal. There are elements of humour throughout, and I honestly thing it is a book that everyone should read.
Perfect for: Honestly, I think this book should be read by everyone.
“I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt.”
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
What’s it about? I read this book for the first time alongside The French Lieutenant’s Woman for my A-Levels. Set in rural England in the 1870s, John and Joan Durbeyfield learn that they may be descended from the d’Urbervilles, an extinct Norman noble family. Tess, their eldest daughter, meets Angel Clare, the youngest son of a Reverend at a May Day dance. Tess has been viewed as a pure woman, a sacrificial victim, even an Earthly goddess, and it has been said that Thomas Hardy’s feelings for her were very strong, which shows how powerful her character is. It’s very hard to write a summary for this book without giving too much away!
Perfect for: Fans of classic literature.
“Our impulses are too strong for our judgement sometimes”
Hearing that people have picked up a book based on a recommendation from me is amazing. A few people have told me recently that they’ve read something I’ve suggested, and were kind enough to share their thoughts…
I never really reached for crime / thriller novels before I started talking to Hels about her favourites and now these genres are a staple in my bookcase. Hels always had fantastic things to say about I Am Pilgrim and when I came across a copy in a charity shop for £2, I just had to pick it up!
I blasted through the first 300 pages in a flash, I felt like I’d hardly spent any time on the book because it was so engaging and utterly believable. Every aspect of the cases and crimes were carefully crafted by the author and really gripping, I can liken the reading experience to watching a movie – it kept you hanging on every page! Definitely the best book I’ve read this year. I’m so grateful to Hels for recommending it to me!
I’ve been a fan of Sophie Kinsella ever since the days of the Shopaholic series and went straight out to buy her new release, Surprise Me, after I saw it featured it in Helen’s July Book Challenge.
As with most of Sophie’s books this is a contemporary romance and explores relationships in a lighthearted way. The main characters are a couple, Dan and Sylvie, who have been happily married for seven years and have two children together, but things take an unexpected turn after a visit to the doctors to renew their medical insure. They both begin to panic after the doctor explains to them they are a healthy couple and can expect to live another 68 years together. Dan and Sylvie soon realise what “till death do us part” actual means. They start to analyse their relationship, everything about their lives seems mundane and routine, so Sylvie comes up with a plan to spice things up a bit. The surprises are thoughtful and well intentioned, excepted they don’t always go to plan. The “Surprise Me” project highlights the good and bad points in their marriage and the couple have to face them together.
I really enjoyed reading the book which is a charming lighthearted comedy, although I didn’t find it as funny as some of Sophie Kinsella’s other books. The realistic characters made me chuckle in places, yet gave a thought provoking insight into marriage and that it’s not all flowers and romance when you’ve been together for many years. I’m sure many couples will relate to the ups and downs that Dan and Sylvie experience.
My husband, Adrian, and I have been married for 11 years and although we’ve been through a few tough times, we’ve also share some amazing experiences together. I’ve never freaked out at the thought of spending the next 68 years as a married couple and I hope I never do.
But for now, I’m off to finish the next book I’ve chosen from Helen’s July reading challenge – Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
I got Reasons to Stay Alive as a birthday present, but am ashamed to say it sat on the book shelf and stayed in my bag as I moved house twice. I had every intention of reading it but hadn’t actually began until I saw Helen was currently reading it, this spurred me on to find the time wherever I could to fit it in.
The book is broken down into small chapters, making it easy to tell yourself just one chapter before I need to get going. I am so pleased that I squeezed in the time to read this, as someone who has experienced Anxiety and Depression for years it struck some emotional cords for me. It was interesting, emotional and uplifting without falling into being a self help book.
What book would be your top book recommendation?