I’ve just finished my English Literature degree, and after giving myself a bit of time off from reading I’m ready to get back on it! It feels wonderful to have the freedom to read whatever I want again – not that I couldn’t before, but leisurely reading wasn’t often at the top of my list after a day of pouring over literary criticism. We all have a lot more down-time on our hands in the current climate, but having a few books to get through can help to fill it.
1.) The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell
I’ve just started reading this and it’s everything I need in a thriller-drama novel: based around a derelict house with a dark history, full of family secrets, and structured through a narrative style of perspective-shifting in each chapter. This is the perfect book after a year of reading dense and highly descriptive novels and academic writing, as it has a gripping plotline that is told in a relatively simple manner. Would highly recommend as a read to getting back into it.
2.) Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood
This short fiction collection written by the universally known author of The Handmaid’s Tale is the most ingenious source of that essential gritty humour that we all need. Each tale is filled with her trademark sharp wit that is both darkly funny and utterly serious. It goes without saying that the joy of a short fiction collection is that you can read a whole narrative in very little time (which always feels like a small accomplishment), or you can read the lot if you have a few hours. Either way, a definite add-on to the reading list of anyone who likes their comedy with a pinch of menace.
3.) Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
Now, I haven’t read this one yet, but it has been on my list for a very long time. A true story about a pupil and his elderly mentor, this book tells the intimate moments shared by them during Morrie’s final days as his ALS worsens. Growing old and getting ill is a concept that scares the best of us, so I can’t wait to read a book which tackles these themes head on, but with love and affection reigning central throughout.
4.) Tall Tales and Wee Stories – Billy Connolly
Another one that I haven’t actually started reading yet, but have heard so many good things about. Observational humour has always been Connolly’s thing, and he displayed his knack for it time and time again during his comedy career. Now that he has retired from stand-up, he has done what seems only right and has put these funny little tales down on paper. I have always loved his wry sense of humour and warm-spirited nature, and I think this book will be just the sort of uplifting read needed during these strange and serious times.
5.) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
This classic is an old favourite of mine, but I haven’t read it for a couple of years and so it sort of feels brand new again, which is exciting. This ones definitely more known for its film adaptation, starring Jack Nicholson as the rebellious lead, McMurphy, but the novel is just as brilliant – if not better. The novel is set in a 1960’s psychiatric ward and is an exploration of the fine lines between order and oppression, freedom and imprisonment, and sanity and insanity. However, based upon the arrival of the brass-necked and highly amusing McMurphy, the novel’s serious themes are broken up with heart-warming moments of unusual comradery. I could not recommend this book enough and, although its age makes some parts of it socially and politically outdated, it is very interesting to see how some misconceptions of mental health disorders still persist today.