Tidings: a Christmas Journey by Ruth Padel
This stunningly beautiful poem was brought to my attention by the counter at Waterstones where the fabulously eye-catching cover did its job and I couldn’t resist. It was incredibly moving, almost painfully so at times. There were tears. This would make a really wonderful gift for someone next Christmas. And if you’re not normally a poetry person, please don’t be put off by that. Read it; you won’t be disappointed.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Warning: do not finish this book in a public place. I did. It wasn’t pretty. Once in a while a book comes along that really makes you feel, that stays with you, that makes you want to go back to page one as soon as you’ve finished it. This is one of those books. Before she died of cancer, novelist Siobhan Dowd left an idea. She hadn’t had time to write the novel. So Patrick Ness did. It just blew me away. Please read it before the film comes out in January 2017.
The Ship by Antonia Honeywell
Our planet has crashed and burned. We’ve finally killed off the bees, used too many antibiotics, ignored climate change for too long. The banks have collapsed, the economy with them. There’s no oil left, no gas. Half the planet lies under contaminated water, the other half has dried up. Military governments rule, controlling the distribution of property, food and resources. Vast tent-cities in Regent’s Park are bombed to reduce the population. All in all, it’s a bit of a nightmare. But not to worry for Lalla, because her dad has got hold of a cruise ship, stocked it to the rafters and chosen five hundred lovely people to board it. Off they sail into the sunset for a happy-ever-after. Or is it?
Notes From a Big Country by Bill Bryson
Observations on America, its people and their lifestyle. A great read for busy people who need something to chuckle over at the end of the day. The book contains Bryson’s columns written for the Mail on Sunday when he lived in the US. Each takes up only two or three pages and so it’s ideal for dipping into without losing the thread.
The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners) by Jennifer Bell
‘If you like Harry Potter, you’ll like this.’ So said the bookseller. And there are indeed many similarities.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Gripping young adult book with a strong narrative voice and a wonderful idea at its core. Fabulous!
What’s So Special About Shakespeare? By Michael Rosen
Aimed at young readers, but also useful for parents who’d like to ignite an interest in our greatest storyteller.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
So much fuss. Would it be worth it? Yes! I whipped through this in just a couple of days. Interesting scenario and a marvellous example of the impact of the unreliable narrator (I’m not giving anything away there; it’s mentioned on the cover). I did start to suspect the twist that was coming, but it was still well worth the read.
Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
I love Lucy Worsley! She’s my favourite TV historian. I so hoped she’d pull off this foray into the world of young adult fiction, and she did! If you find the Tudor period interesting, this is the book for you. It’s a look at the rise and fall of Katherine Howard. A note of caution to parents, though: the narrator is very young and is being prepared for a life at court that includes sexual activity.
Nail Your Novel (Draft, Fix and Finish) by Roz Morris
Author, ghostwriter and teacher (The Guardian’s writing masterclasses) Roz Morris suggests a system that won’t stifle your creativity but will help you to finish your novel.
Viral by Helen FitzGerald
A very thought-provoking book exploring, in part, the issue of culpability when uploading, sharing and viewing online material.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
I read this because an editing job in this genre came up and it’s not my natural habitat. It’s fairly readable if you just want something to glide through without being challenged. And, of course, it’s always nice to see what all the fuss is about. I’m not sure I found the answer though…
Captivated by You by Sylvia Day
Sold to me as Fifty Shades better written. OK, I thought, I’ll read another book in this genre and I’ll be a better editor for it. I didn’t find it as engaging as Fifty Shades, but then, to be fair, I did come in at book three. You don’t have to have read the preceding two to make sense of this one, but I do feel I might have missed some of the mounting tension by skipping the first two.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The play, not the novel. The play came first. I still find it captivating, even after numerous re-reads. It is also deeply unsettling. If your only experience of Peter is grounded in Disney, be warned: the original is decidedly not Disney material!
The History of the World in 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes
Highly original. The first chapter is narrated by a stowaway on Noah’s Ark. You think you know that story? Think again, my friend. Other events covered include Chernobyl, the sinking of the Titanic and the Israel–Palestine conflict. A seriously good book (although not seriously long), and well worth the time.
Just in Case by Meg Rosoff
A witty and original look at a teenager’s angst-ridden view of the world and his place in it. I found the scenes between the protagonist and his brother, a toddler, very clever and very moving.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is not light reading but, then, end-of-the-world (as we know it, at least) stuff isn’t going to be, is it? It’s thought-provoking, though, as post-apocalyptic literature should be. The end comes via a mutation of swine flu, to which 99% of the population succumbs. A group of travelling performers take Shakespeare productions to survivors. But the mysterious figure of 'the prophet' lurks menacingly in the background. A fabulous read.
Do these posts represent an eclectic list? A strange mixture of fiction and non-fiction, older books and current ones, literary fiction and genre fiction? Good; that’s exactly what it should look like.
Why? Because as an editor I try to read a wide range of books, including some to which I don’t feel naturally drawn (and it’s so interesting how many of those I enjoy!).
I read for pleasure, of course; I was a reader long before I became an editor. But I also choose my books with this in mind: I am a better editor for a wider range of clients if I have a wider reading spectrum.
So, I’d like to share my thoughts on what I’m reading, but in brief. Hence short & sweet book reviews. There are lots of good-quality, lengthier book reviews out there (The Guardian reviews are especially good), but it’s not always easy to find the time to plough through them all. I hope my lightly annotated reading list will give you some ideas for your own list!